Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Midi Maze


The title has been spelled a lot of ways, but since the two words are consistently separated, I have it like that
Name:Midi Maze
Publisher:Hybrid Arts
Developer:Xanth Software

While it may not look it today, Midi Maze has a very interesting place in history. Games before Midi Maze aren't really FPS titles, at least not as we've come to think of them. Yes, some are very impressive, but they've always got some weird thing going on that separated from the commonly accepted ancestors. Either they're grid-based, they use some crazy keyboard aiming, or some other strange caveat. This has all the hallmarks of the genre I've come to love and hate over the years.

Midi Maze isn't the first in its lineage, its pretty clear that its inspired by the mainframe game Maze Wars. That's the game usually credited as being the first FPS, though I still consider this to have a weird thing, since its grid-based. I don't think we've actually seen a game influenced by Maze Wars before, outside of this game's sequel/remake. While other games have the same grid-based movement, the Maze Wars formula is pretty clear. You wander around a maze, you shoot things that are also wandering around and shooting. The closest thing I've seen is Illegus Episode IV, which I compared to 3D Monster Maze, another mainframe game, though that has some home computer ports.

There's also another important aspect to this game I'm not really going to go over, multiplayer. This is where the MIDI part comes from. On an Atari ST, where you would originally play this game, you could take up to 16 MIDI cables, attach them to each computer, and you and your friends could blast each other as long as you cared to. I think this is actually the first game you could play like that. It was actually the primary draw for the game back in the day, since there was nothing like this. People were still playing multiplayer strategy games by mail.

Starting up a solo game is slightly confusing and requires one to press alt+s when the game says slave machine. From here you can select the map, what your name is, and what kind of bots you have. They are very dumb, dumb and not so dumb. I start off with the very dumb ones to get used to the controls. You need to pick a regular joystick, not joypad or anything else, otherwise you won't be able to do anything. The dumb ones prove to be ample target practice.

A typical scenario with the stupidest bots
Moving up to dumb ones, they shoot back. There are a couple of interesting things going on here. First, when the AI isn't chasing after you, they're going around in a circle. Second, they will ignore any other AI to just gang up on the player. This provides a few amusing situations. If I'm shooting at the AI from a certain distance, they will do nothing. Which can and has resulted in three AI just going into a circle while I take pot shots at them. The goal, though there are changes to the objective that can be made, is to kill your enemies 10 times.
How polite
This situation with the AI only going after me prompts me to change the map and lower the amount of AI down to one. The AI on not-so-dumb seems a lot more clever than it really is. It'll still blandly shoot at me if it's got a good shot, but when it's not taking shots at me, it looks like he's running around a lot better than he really is. Perhaps it was just the map being better suited to the AI, but I felt this was a worthy challenge.
Unlike his stupider fellows, this guy isn't staying there for long
There is also a team mode, which is chaos. If every team has four members, and every team's kills are combined, its fairly quick to get to the kill limit. You need a really big map to properly handle everything.
Utter Chaos
The game, in addition to what kind of bots you want, also allows you to chose firing speed, respawn time, and regeneration time. This functions a lot like your newer FPS titles, where the gun isn't so important and you have regenerating health. However, you regenerate pretty slowly even on fast. There are plenty of mazes included, and a map editor if you're so inclined.

Its a lot of fun, even if I'm missing the point without other players. I'm not sure you can play this version with other players, at least not without real Atari STs. You miss a lot by not being in a room with 15 other people, screaming German curse words. This is really a different experience than most multiplayer FPS titles, because there aren't really any that play this simplistically. There's not even sidestepping in this. Instead of circle-strafing you get two people trying to walk at a safe enough angle.

Generic weapons. 1/10

Some smart enemies for the environment and era. They do have limitations but on the whole, its not like there was anything to compare it to and its not really the point. 2/10


Fairly generic, only walls on-top of blocks. 1/10

Player Agency:
Despite having some issues getting it working, and only allowing simple moving and shooting, it felt very smooth. It would have to be, even in the absence of any competition. 4/10


There's something weird about playing in a ghost town of a game, especially one as weird as this. 2/10

Very simple avatars and walls. 1/10


Some generic sound effects. 1/10

That's 12. A bit more than Faceball 2000's 7. Curiously, this is exactly the same as Choplifter, though the individual scores are different.

This is it for Xanth Software, I've already covered Faceball 2000, and while they're credited on GATO, that's just a port. Hybrid FX doesn't seem to have been responsible for anything else.

I have the upcoming games planned until game 100, which hasn't changed at all despite shifting gears.

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