Machinarium Author: T_H_Schafer -- Posted: 2010-08-12
Machinarium, a point-and-click puzzle adventure title was released in 2009 by Amanita Design, an independent Czech company specializing in flash games. You'll spend the game as a small robot that has been thrown out of a towering city and left disassembled in a dump that must pull himself up by his own nuts (bolts) and return to the city for glory, or something. It starts out pretty foggy. During the game you'll explore lush hand drawn environments, endeavor to help the local downtrodden robots, unravel a plot to destroy the city's tallest tower by the Black Cap Brotherhood and rescue your girlfriend / girlbot / mechanical significant other.
Right from the start it was easy to see how much love was poured into this game. The art is absolutely stunning at times, desolate at others and always surprising. Each character encountered immediately pops with a kind of unique neatness. You'll say "neat" a lot. That is if you're like me anyway. This is a neat game. The small touches really pulled me in. The way small birds will scatter if you mouse over them, or how the main character daydreams about his love interest after sitting for too long kept me immersed in the world while revealing snippets of story.
The charm and humor of the narrative is one of machinarium's crowning features. Solving puzzles requires a variety of unique solutions, including [Spoilers] electro-stunning a robo-cat and using it to clear a robo-mouse from a local street performer's didgeridoo. [/Spoliers] The little robot protagonist's expressiveness went a long way in captivating me, as did the elegant animation.
The sound design in the game is nothing short of fantastic. Minimalist mechanical chirps and buzzes accompany some of the more sparse locations while the inhabitants often fill the air with their own natural sounds, radios and impromptu musical performances. Every sound is expertly integrated which often times caused me to pause just to take a listen.
Although the puzzles in the game can be very challenging, I never felt daunted by them. In part that is due to a two-tier a hint system that helps greatly without feeling like cheating. There were times I hadn't truly grasped what it was I was doing. The feeling of progress was there but the actions I took weren't always intuitive though I trudged on with a MacGyveresque resourcefulness. It wasn't until I had solved something that I could look back and laugh at how I completed it. The way things come together and the way the character's actions affect the world around him in a positive way is beyond cool and something you just don't see in games these days.
Overall the things keeping machinarium back aren't at all related to the craftsmanship of the game itself. Despite a puzzle or two that I felt were more chore-like than fun, I would say the game is flawless. But that still doesn't make it for everyone. It also comes down to value. This is a great game, but one that can be completed in under ten hours. This game is also twenty dollars. If you purchase games based on gameplay-hour to dollar ratios, this probably isn't the game you're looking for. But if you want something memorable, something smartly funny, something different and beautiful, then heck yeah, give it a go.