Maggie’s Apartment is a single-setting point-and-click adventure that casts players in the role of title character Maggie Mallowne, girlfriend of superstar entertainer Randy Rosebud. While the game initially seems like it has the makings of a lighthearted adventure, the plot becomes something deeper as players explore the apartment in which Maggie lives, eventually dealing with mature subject matter and unveiling a central mystery to solve. Perhaps the standout feature is the graphics, hand-drawn by the game’s developer and CalArts student, Anatola Howard, whose flowing, distorted lines and eye-popping touches of color belie the game’s darker narrative. The item-based puzzles are fun, and even though the lower difficulty might disappoint players expecting more of a challenge, the casual nature of the gameplay allows the story and wacky characters to take center stage.
The tale opens with Maggie and Randy watching TV together when a commercial for a local meat company appears. Mysteriously, this angers Maggie's star boyfriend, and after a few moments he leaves the apartment, dressed in an identity-hiding trench coat and hat. Soon after, a lockdown is announced for the apartment building. Thus, Maggie is left solely in the company of her surroundings, seemingly without much to occupy her time.
Luckily, Maggie is willing to comment on just about everything in her apartment, allowing us to slowly learn more about her and her relationship with Randy (a tall, pink-haired music star vaguely reminiscent of Elton John). In this respect, Maggie’s Apartment has a few surprises up its sleeve. What first appears to be a game about an immature girl’s infatuation becomes much more complex than even I was expecting, despite the early hints that things might not be exactly what they seem.
Due to the slow-burn nature of the plot, I wouldn’t exactly consider it “twisty” in the conventional sense, nor is it especially oppressive in its darkness. Rather, it is layered a bit like an onion, where learning about an apparently innocuous object simply raises more, sometimes disquieting questions about its significance, eventually leading up to the game’s central mystery (which of course I won’t spoil) for you to piece together.
Exploration quickly reveals that, in addition to the Randy Rosebud memorabilia she gushes about, Maggie is accompanied by an oddball cast of characters, both within her apartment and outside it, such as Beauty, an anthropomorphic radish and Maggie’s best friend, and Dunc, a philosopher-cactus who lives in Maggie’s closet and suffers from an existential crisis. Several characters remain unseen, to whom Maggie talks through the walls, such as Shrimp, a computer whiz-kid who lives next door, and Hector Cheese, sleazy writer of romance novels.
Despite the “cuteness” of the setting and Maggie’s overly-excited reactions to the items decorating her home, Maggie’s Apartment isn’t especially kid-friendly. The story deals with adult topics like obsession and the desire for fame, and includes vaguely sexual content sprinkled throughout. There’s also a bizarre sequence in which Beauty the radish implores her friend to literally eat her during a crucial moment. The conspicuousness of this sequence left me wondering what the point of it was, especially in light of indications that it has deeper meaning. If nothing else, it fits well with the bizarre overall tone of the game, and gives the player something to ponder after the game is over.
Gameplay will be largely familiar to adventure veterans. Control is entirely mouse-driven and clicking on hotspots allows interaction with them using a simplified interface that depends on context. For instance, clicking on Beauty while standing next to her will automatically begin a conversation, but clicking while gazing down at her from Maggie’s apartment window will result in a simple comment about her. While interacting with items is part of the game, there is no inventory. Instead, you simply click and drag items from one place to another to combine the two objects, if allowed, though your action will be met with silence if they cannot. Typical tasks include helping Maggie’s next door neighbors through a rough patch in their relationship, convincing a police officer to investigate a crime, and filling Hector Cheese in on juicy apartment gossip.
Conversations are managed through a dialogue system where you click on a topic or sentence to talk about it until all options are exhausted. It is possible to entirely miss out on comical conversations because of some branching in the dialogue, but this unfortunate possibility doesn’t impact the course of the plot.Continued on the next page...