Maquette Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Break-ups suck. There are no two ways about it. You spend so much time feeling confused, desperate to make things work, and even a little trapped. That’s kind of what it’s like to play Maquette. Annapurna’s latest release (developed by newbie Graceful Decay) uses puzzles to tell the story of a relationship breakdown. Initially released on PlayStation and PC in 2021, it now brings its pretty puzzles to the Switch.

The game takes place in a sequence of fantasy worlds that meld Disneyland-esque castles with Tuscan gardens, carnivals, and beaches. Each world comes with mind-bending challenges and the layers of a relationship story at its heart. The title ‘Maquette’ describes a scale model on which a sculptor bases their final art piece. It refers to the game’s landscape-within-a-landscape, and it’s also a nod to the two main characters’ love of art.

You start Maquette in an enclosed garden, surrounded by the blues and purples of night. Keep walking ahead and you end up inside a dome, but there’s a smaller dome in front of you: the eponymous maquette. You move a blocky red cube in the small dome and hear a thump as something lands outside. That’s the main form of gameplay here: picking up and placing a single item in the maquette, only for it to be recreated in the 'real' world.

The puzzles get you to experiment with the scale of objects, and run between the different-sized spaces. Played from a first-person perspective, the single dot in the centre of the screen is your cursor, which snaps onto interactable items or levers. It’s minimal, but don’t let the stripped-down mechanics fool you; this game is not as simple as it seems.

Maquette wants you to think way, way ‘outside the dome’, and some of its puzzles had us pretty stumped throughout. Even though the game dispenses help but we wouldn’t have minded at least a few more nudges in the right direction. We spent a good amount of time running around looking for some magic formula, only to find that we just had to move an object slightly or rotate it in the place we had it to begin with. Whenever we finally hit the solution, it felt a little less ‘ahh!’ And a little more ‘THAT’S the answer?!’ It’s great for those who love a challenge and getting that answer perfectly right, but for more casual puzzle players it can be a bit frustrating. The first-person POV also felt a bit jarring and trippy when we were already confused about a puzzle. We went from being the size of a skyscraper to the size of an ant in the same world, and it messed with our heads a little bit.

Maquette Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Maquette’s head-scratching puzzles are wrapped around a heartbreaking story. As you play through the game, you unravel the relationship between Kenzie and Michael. Voiced wonderfully by real-life couple Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) and Seth Gabel (Fringe), their chemistry comes through in their characters’ interactions throughout Maquette.

A post-break-up letter is written in the world of the game, serving as a ‘getting warmer’ hint while you hunt for your next clue. When you complete a section, you’re rewarded with cutscenes where colourful pencil drawings form over the puzzle's space, and you hear Michael and Kenzie in a small snippet of their time together – from meeting to deciding they’re more than friends, to saying ‘I think I love you’, and more. Each scene swept us up in their emotions. But even the early ones are laden with the question: what went wrong? It’s the kind of narrative we’ve seen before, but the format is unique and had us engrossed from the meet-cute, when Kenzie accidentally spills coffee on Michael’s sketchbook, prompting a conversation that reveals their shared love of drawing.

Maquette Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

While Maquette’s story shines, its performance on Switch could have used a little extra polish. It runs smoothly for the most part but we experienced a drop in frame rate when we put something where it didn’t fit. Two incidents were so stuttery that we had to restart. Turns out this was common on PlayStation too, so we’ll see if the developers patch it now.

Still, there’s a lot to love in this game. Maquette’s beautiful art style befits its title and the enthusiasm for art the protagonists share. The game is filled with pretty landscapes that made us ‘wow’ out loud, although the pictures are clearer, the shapes are smoother on other consoles/platforms. The colours start out bright but dull as the play progresses, mirroring the mood of the relationship.

When Maquette has music, it’s excellent. The soundtrack is filled with easy-going pieces, lovely melodies and heartfelt lyrics. There’s some quaint, looping background music in the early stages which is nice, along with some suitable sound effects: the golden ticket lands with a tinkly sound, the block with a heavy thud, etcetera. But apart from these occasional sounds, you’re left to fidget with a staircase or key in silence. It can feel eerie, especially in the abandoned house scenes. We weren’t sure if this was deliberate, but it would’ve been nice to have something playing in the background throughout the whole game.


Maquette’s strength mostly lies in its beautifully told narrative and wonderfully voice-acted characters, and if this were a review of the story alone, we might give it a higher rating. The gameplay is interesting, however, there’s often only one right answer. Plus it’s hard to ignore performance issues like stuttering and the dreaded restarts. For us, playing Maquette was a lot like Michael and Kenzie’s relationship. It was sometimes wonderful, sometimes frustrating, and, though it’s probably not something we’ll return to, it was worth our time – even if it didn’t last long.