Maskmaker Review – A Convoluted and Beautiful Mess

Maskmaker PSVR Review

You’re walking down a deserted alley when you hear people arguing in a creepy, derelict mask shop, so naturally, you decide to just walk right in. Inside, two disembodied ghosts of mask makers tell you to solve a puzzle so you can be their new apprentice. You apparently have nothing better to do so you decide, right there and then, to start a new life and go all-in on this mask making thing. You solve an easy first puzzle and — voila — you’ve got full access to a complete mask maker’s workshop. Welcome to Maskmaker.

A few minutes ago, you were just some schlub teleporting down an alley; now you’re standing at a big workbench, on your way to fashioning beautiful masks as a career. But hold on: before you can become the next Da Vinci of masks, you must complete an intensive training under your master, learning all of the techniques required to fashion the perfect face covering. Turns out, that adds up to about 15 minutes, because all you really need to know is how to use your Move controllers to chisel a block of wood, dip your mask in paint, and maybe stick some shells or bamboo shoots on it.

Despite the rather random beginning, all of this is actually pretty fun, by the way. Maskmaker makes really clever use of VR, making you feel like you are using your hands and skills to create something cool all by yourself, even if you know darn well that you’re just waving your hands around in your living room like a crazy person. You hold the chisel and mallet, revealing intricate masks from big blocks of wood; you dip them into vats of coloured paint; and you lovingly adorn them by picking up decorations and sticking them to your new masks. Never mind how you got here; the point is you’re here making cool masks and having a pretty good time doing it.

And the cool conceit at the heart of Maskmaker is that, when you put on a new mask you’ve made, you’re instantly transported to a new world. It could be a sunny, tropical island, or a mysterious swamp, or a snowy mountain — you don’t know what you’ll see when you put a mask on, and that’s a great incentive to keep acquiring new blueprints, making new masks, and continuing to wave your arms around while your cat looks at you curiously from the couch.

Explore New Worlds

Each new world has its own particular biome, and its own unique feel and music. They’re all very lovingly rendered and atmospheric. After the initial “wow!” of entering a new biome, I found that they were lacking in-depth though. They look gorgeous but other than some new mask-making materials to discover they had little in the way of secrets or treasures to keep you exploring. In spite of this, you’re given an incentive to keep exploring, as you need to find the next mask’s blueprint and make it in order to proceed to the next environment.

Maskmaker title image
Eventually in your many travels through Maskmaker’s eight worlds, you’ll come upon three towers, which are like “final stages” and they’re why you’re making all these masks and visiting all these new lands. The towers have people in them which unlock the overarching story of Maskmaker. It’s a mystery in a way; you’re trying to find out who this King Prospero guy is who’s been speaking in your ear all this time, and why his previous apprentice had a falling-out with him.

As Prospero’s name implies, Maskmaker’s story has lofty literary aspirations but it is quite exposition-heavy and not the game’s strong suit; there’s no denying that it’s just crammed with allusions, symbols, and metaphors, and the writer of this game definitely went to university. Still, despite the very solid Shakespearian accents of all of the voice actors, I would have liked to experience the story more and listened to it less. Sure, parts of the story are shown in cut-scenes, but too often it is just you standing for a long time, listening to a character talk to you.

A Bit Too Easy

As mentioned, the voices also accompany you as you wander, and help you solve Maskmaker’s light puzzles. In fact, they’re overly “helpful” and they’ll literally almost tell you something obvious like “open that glowing box over there!” if you vacillate too long. As a result, Maskmaker’s difficulty is a bit too gentle and you’ll glide through it with nary a furrowed brow. Those who enjoy relaxing games will like this, but if you want a challenge you might be put off.

No biggie, though, because being in the well-designed workshop, making new masks, decorating them, and putting them on to reveal new worlds is loads of fun and I never grew tired of it. There’s something about the tactile nature of constructing the masks that feels satisfying and is perfectly suited to the VR platform. Later in the game, you even use a paintbrush to add artistic touches, and the feeling of making a new creation always left me feeling giddy as a schoolboy.

Its set-up is ludicrous, its biomes are beautiful but sparse, and its story is convoluted; but even still, I enjoyed Maskmaker and I recommend you take up the chisel and mallet and experience it for yourself. There’s a clever and unique use of VR in this game that makes it worth trying on, despite everything.

** A PSVR game code was provided by the publisher **

The Good

  • Good use of VR
  • Fun gameplay
  • Beautiful environments

The Bad

  • Convoluted story
  • Environments lack interesting secrets
  • Random opening