02 November 2017
Magic Maze Kids features fixed boards and allows speaking
Magic Maze is one of the most unique games we’ve seen in years, a fantastically chaotic real-time dash around a shopping mall where players can’t communicate (other than banging the big, red ‘Do Something!’ pawn in front of each other) and can only move each of the four adventurers in very specific ways as the sand timer ticks down.
While it’s not a complicated game and has the dressing of a family-friendly hit, Magic Maze is surprisingly stressful due to the pressure to keep up the pace and figure out what your teammates want you to do without speaking out loud.
Good news, then, that publisher Sit Down! has announced it’s working on a new version of the Spiel des Jahres nominee designed by creator Kasper Lapp to be much more friendly for younger players who might not be able to keep up with the demands of the full game.
Magic Maze Kids swaps the original’s shoplifting theme for a more family-friendly race to turn a frog back into a king by collecting the parts needed to brew a magical potion.
One of the biggest changes to the kids’ game is that the modular tiles of Magic Maze have been replaced by fixed layouts that are completely visible from the start, instead of being revealed and randomly generated as players rush around. The boards we played with are double-sided, with tutorial layouts on one side and four different variations of the main mode’s map on the other.
Another is that players are allowed to speak to each other throughout, but are still limited to the actions permitted by the card in front of them – so only one player can move characters up, while another has to move them left, for example.
The limited movement mechanic is used in a new way, with the addition of animals dotted around the board that must be shifted out of the way for characters to get past. The creatures are limited to a specific area of colour-coded squares but can otherwise be moved like the characters. On a map with two bridges, there’s also a troll who can be shifted between the bridges with the right direction.
The rules have been simplified from the full game, but the four characters still have unique powers – the prince can jump over an animal, the witch can take forest shortcuts, the wizard can make use of portals and the princess can travel along rivers.
In the prototype of the game that we played (the non-final version pictured), Sit Down! said that it is experimenting with including the ‘Do Something!’ pawn, as it can seem a little stressful for children.
A sand timer is included, but it’s not as crucial to the game as before – in fact, it’s only introduced in the final part of the 11 step-by-step tutorial missions and doesn’t mean complete failure if it runs out. Instead, a part of the potion is returned to the deck and play continues. (Although a variant reintroduces the fail state.)
Magic Maze Kids is shaping up to be a friendlier take on an already fantastic game. From what we’ve seen, it may lack the replayability of its bigger sibling, but it seems like a fantastic way to introduce more people to the unique gameplay before diving in with the full game.
The game is still a work in progress for the moment, so some rules might change, but it’s currently due for release in February next year at an expected price of €35 (£31).