Westworld’s free Alexa game is like a radio drama crossed with a quiz showJune 21, 2018
Westworld is known for slipping elaborate story hints into its viral marketing material, giving fans an early look at upcoming plot developments. Westworld: The Maze, a short game released today for Amazon Alexa devices, does the opposite. It’s a clever tie-in narrative that draws on players’ existing knowledge of Westworld lore — or at least their skill at navigating the Westworld wiki.
The Maze follows a voice-controlled “choose your own adventure” format that other Alexa games have used. You play a host who’s just beginning to wake up to the nature of Westworld’s true reality, thanks to some cryptic advice from a mysterious character in Westworld’s Sweetwater saloon. Your goal is to find the center of a metaphorical maze, but to accomplish this, you also need to keep up the appearance of being an ordinary host. That means correctly answering other hosts’ questions about places, events, and people.
If you’ve really been hanging around Sweetwater, for instance, you can tell the town sheriff which object Dolores Abernathy dropped on the street that morning. (As Westworld fans may remember, it’s a can of condensed milk.) If you want to join a Revolutionary leader, you need to know who he’s fighting (the Confederados) and where they’re from (New Virginia). Answering some queries wrong will get you killed or disabled, while correctly answering others will just surprise hosts with your uncanny guessing abilities. The questions are interspersed with more traditional CYOA decisions, eventually funneling you toward either a grand revelation, or an unceremonious restart at the saloon.
Westworld the show is about the links between memory and identity, and The Maze marries its themes well with the basic fun of answering trivia questions. It’s a short experience — around 20 minutes — but with an unpredictable series of possible scenes. Even if the game’ isn’t as ridiculously intricate as HBO’s real-life Westworld, it’s got a rich and polished radio-drama vibe, complete with voice acting from Westworld’s Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Clementine (Angela Sarafyan). The developers even hid an obscure, metatextual Easter egg for journalists who might be covering the game — when Rose the saloon manager asks what you want to drink near the beginning of the game, ask her if she knows the authors of these articles, or my colleagues Bryan Bishop and Tasha Robinson.
The game, however, is also a reminder that Alexa doesn’t exactly have host-level smarts. You aren’t having conversations, just spouting specific words and phrases. I failed at least one cycle because my Amazon Echo didn’t understand my answers.
So if you’re worried about artificial intelligence blurring the line between human and machine, then The Maze should put those concerns to rest for now. But it’s a smart little experiment, crafted with all the care we’ve come to expect from Westworld’s creators.
Westworld: The Maze is available for free on any Amazon Alexa-enabled device. You can play by enabling the skill of the same name through your Alexa companion app, then saying “Alexa, open Westworld.”