Maskmaker Review

Hail to the maskmaker, maskmaker, maskmaker...

Maskmaker has a unique premise for a VR puzzle game. As a new maskmaker’s apprentice, you make and wear masks with the almost magical property of then transporting the wearer (which is also you) into the body of an automaton that’s wearing a matching mask. Then you can go and solve even more puzzles! It’s a little strange, but it’s a really cool concept.

The game begins with you wandering down a street until you come upon Prospero’s mask shop and, after some exposition and a small puzzle, are soon getting to work in its workshop, learning how to create masks. You need a few things to make a mask, starting off with a blueprint to follow, then a mould, some paints, and an assortment of trinkets to attach. Thankfully, the blueprint is provided, as are the paints and a large block of wood with a vice for you to chisel the mask’s shape out of, complete with hammer and chisel for you to wield in VR. It’s as satisfying to use as it is awkward. If you’re careful and specifically place your chisel on the surface before hammering you’ll do just fine, but being a VR game without a physical object in front of you, you can put the chisel through the surface of the wood, which then won’t register a hit.

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The mask chiselled, you then need to recreate the design. You first dip it in the right colour of paint and can attach it to a stand, which can be adjusted to wherever you want it – I spent a minute just moving it around and watching the mechanical arm adjust. You then grab items off the shelves, paint them if necessary and attach them into the right place. Eventually you’ll unlock paint brushes that allow you to paint more intricate patterns on masks, although you’ll be tapping to fill a particular area rather than actual painting with brush strokes.

Finding the trinkets you need to adorn these masks is how you’ll be spending most of your time, as you pop on a mask and warp to automatons across three regions: islands, swamp, and mountains. The transitions are seamless. When you take off a mask, you are instantly back in your workshop, and when you put on another, you’re instantly in the body of the relevant minion. You can take a mask off on an island, then put another one on and be on a mountain in a flash – it’s really cool!

Each of these locations has a basic mask type, whilst each additional mask will have different decorations. Your first mask or two will be simple enough to make as you discover your first bits and pieces needed to replicate a design to it, but you’ll soon need decorations that are found in the other regions. They can be a bit difficult to find at first, and I was a little frustrated trying to discover one on a plant for the first time, because previous items had been found lying around rather than growing on plants. After the first hour or so, you start to know where to look.

As you work your way around the regions, the King will speak to you about his kingdom and its history. He’ll explain the ominous looking towers that you’re working your way towards and the ancient statues that talk to you when you stand near them. The king’s voice is almost always in your ear, so it’s a good job that the voice acting is excellent throughout the game. There aren’t many characters, but they have a lot of things to say and they’re all excellent, helping to make the narrative the best part of the game.

The presentation in general is excellent, each biome feels very distinct not just due to how it looks, but the sounds as well, whether the wind in the mountains or the lapping of waves of a beach. The game is generally gorgeous as well, opting for a cartoon-like style that fits the game so well. Everything looks and sounds like a fantasy, even the characters sound like they could be teachers at Hogwarts.

There are a few issues, though. There are some frame rate drops when returning to the game after cutscenes (despite me playing on PS5 via backwards compatibility), which isn’t ideal in any game, but can (and did) cause some motion sickness for when in VR.

There’s also a game breaking bug where I fell through the floor and the game saved with me there, trapping that particular mask-wearer and stopping me from completing any puzzles with it. I had to restart the game, losing the first hour and a half. The game gives you the option of teleporting and smooth locomotion, so you can avoid this issue by teleporting everywhere, as I wasn’t able to teleport onto the bit of land I fell through, but the walk button had no qualms about it. I also experienced something similar while resetting my position in PSVR during a ritual near the end of the game. Thankfully it didn’t save that time, and just took me back to the beginning of the scene when I reloaded.

There’s also one area with a lot of baskets for transferring things between your mask-wearers. The objects you’re putting in these baskets are conveniently dotted around the landscape and, if you lose them, reappear back where you found them. Well, once or twice I put that object in the basket and, whilst raising it up to my other minion, it disappeared from the basket and respawned. A mild inconvenience, but one that shouldn’t be there.

The game also butts up against some of the limitations of PSVR. Working on masks means your hands can block the tracking lights on the PSVR headset, causing you to wiggle around in game, which is a pain when you need precision for painting. There’s also some dancing (no explanations here) that is a bit fiddly with PSVR and ended up feeling more like I was muddling through than I was doing what I was meant to be doing.

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Summary
I really enjoyed my time with Maskmaker. Puzzle games like this can easily lead to frustration, but Maskmaker is a thoroughly inventive VR puzzler that walks that line very well. It's a tad short, but I think it might be better that way as it doesn't outstay its welcome or overuse its mechanics. I'd love to give it a better score and it is an enjoyable VR puzzler, but with a few fiddly bits and some pretty serious bug that forced me to restart the whole game, it's lost a couple of points.
Good
  • Excellent narrative
  • Excellent voice acting
  • Satisfying mask making
  • Good puzzling
Bad
  • A few bugs, including one game-breaker
  • Some VR foibles
  • Frame rate issues
6