Maquette's Love Story Has Already Broken My Heart

maquette on ps5
Screenshot: Graceful Decay / Annapurna Interactive
Kotaku Game DiaryKotaku Game DiaryThe latest thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we're playing.

Ever listen to a song so powerful you stop, drop, and roll to frantically figure out what it is? That’s what happened to me last night while playing Maquette, a puzzle game out this week for PC, PS4, and PS5. Yes, the game’s fantastic, which we’ll get to in a moment, but first: that song.

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Maquette is a metaphorical, recursive puzzle game about a relationship. You exist in a world with multiple planes, where there’s a diorama—or maquette—of the space you’re in, which itself is nestled in a larger carbon-copy of the same exact space, suggesting that you’re inside a diorama yourself. Place an object in the normal-sized plane, and you’ll see it reflected on both the large-scale world you occupy and in the diorama. Your goal is to navigate by manipulating the environment on these separate planes.

maquette center area
Screenshot: Graceful Decay / Annapurna Interactive

The song in question plays after you solve one of the game’s early puzzles, which you do by picking up a small bridge and placing it on a small chasm to build a big bridge over a big chasm. You cross the chasm. You take an elevator up to the top of a tower. A mezzanine appears in an explosion of golden particle effects. As you step on it, an acoustic guitar kicks in, and, then, a woman starts singing:

Who are you
Coming in so close
So close you might scare me away?

I tend to sprint through linear games. But last night, when this song came on, I put my controller down and listened through to the end, soaking up the sights. It shows up at the point where the two main characters, Kenzie (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) and Michael (Seth Gabel, her IRL husband), first start falling in love. Man, do you remember falling in love? It’s the best feeling! Hearing this song come on as the two of them banter with the playful timidity of doe-eyed lovebirds was easily the most transportative gaming moment I’ve had this year.

Maquette’s soundtrack isn’t officially out yet, but luckily someone put together a Spotify playlist featuring music from the game. The song you’re looking for is “Tidal Waves,” by Meredith Edgar, but not the version that shows up on the playlist, from the album On Whatever You Pray. Turns out, the in-game version is from her 2011 album, Watergun. (You’ll have heard it if you caught Maquette’s gameplay trailer from last summer.) Maquette’s developers have noted that all of the music is sourced from musicians local to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Michael and Kenzie live.

Meredith Egdar - Topic (YouTube)

I’m four chapters into Maquette, and have loved every minute of it. I’m a mark for puzzle games like Carto, wherein the solutions shape the world around you. Maquette’s puzzles have certainly stumped me at moments but have never made me feel dumb, since the game wordlessly yet elegantly conveys every new set of rules.

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But the thing that’s struck me most is the relationship between Kenzie and Michael, which is accentuated by top-tier vocal performances and a stellar soundtrack. You don’t need to be a relationship therapist to see, even from their first meet-cute, that Kenzie and Michael are headed for an earth-shattering breakup. I don’t know yet what song will play during the split that is sure to happen. If it’s even half as powerful as “Tidal Waves,” I’ll probably need to set the controller down again.

More Music That’ll Hit You Right In The Feels

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Staff Writer, Kotaku

DISCUSSION

There is not a lot of video game music that can give me that “set the controller down and just listen” vibe. Maybe it’s because I just don’t play the kinds of games where that’s a thing...

...but that didn’t stop me instantly thinking back to getting floored by “Melodies of Life” playing over the end of Final Fantasy IX. That was a set-the-controller-down moment for 22-year-old me.