Game Review: Machinarium
Release Date: Oct. 16th 2009
Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Developer: Amanita Design
Platforms: PC and Mac
Machinarium is a classic, point and click adventure made by Amanita Design. Amanita Design is a very small, Czech developer whose past games include two other adventure games, Samorost and Samorost 2. Machinarium is available online at their website, Steam, D2D, and others.
For the vast majority of Machinarium, gamers will be trying to figure out how to progress through the environment by pointing and clicking to move and interact with items on the screen. The hero that does the moving and interacting in Machinarium is a little robot. There is no dialog in the game, so you won’t learn your robot hero’s name (though you can find out what the Machinarium development team called him by reading Platform Nation’s interview with Amanita Design).
The first thing that people will notice when starting Machinarium is the art. The art is beautiful from start to finish and there is not one item, background, or character that looks like it hasn’t had hours devoted to it. Machinarium doesn’t need the Unreal Engine technology, or a 500 dollar graphics card to run it. I played the game on a laptop that practically explodes when I look at most system requirements, but that doesn’t stop Machinarium from being one of the most beautiful games I have played. Even if the adventure gameplay wasn’t fun (spoiler: it’s fun) I would have played just to see the next beautifully drawn area of the game.
The story is easily understood, even without dialog. It’s not very original: get back to town, save girlfriend, stop bad guys, but no matter how unoriginal, it’s still charming and filled with colorful characters. I enjoyed seeing the next step of the adventure as much as trying to solve the next puzzle.
Machinarium’s puzzles aren’t like Bejeweled or Professor Layton. In Machinarium, a puzzle is trying to find the right combination of things to do in order to move to the next area, like escaping a prison without getting seen, or finding the items needed to have a street band continue to play their music. The first puzzle in Machinarium is figuring out how to put your little robot back together after being ejected from a flying dumpster. The game does a good job of showing you how to play the game with that first puzzle. Moving your little robot, collecting items, using the environment, everything is clear and gets players ready for the rest of the game.
The first couple puzzles can be solved without leaving your current area. Eventually, though, you will be exploring and walking around the entire city to collect the items you need. As the puzzle areas get bigger, they also become more complex and challenging. You won’t breeze through Machinarium’s puzzles at all, but for the vast majority of them, simply looking around the environment and thinking about how to use your little robot and the limited items he can collect should allow you to solve them. This is one area that I really enjoyed about Machinarium. Most of the puzzles were hard, but I was still able to figure them out with a little thinking and determination.
If you run into a puzzle and simply have no idea what you need to do, there is a handy light bulb icon you can click to give a hint. Hints are in the form of seeing a picture of what your little robot hero is thinking. The hints show you what the end of the puzzle will be, but aren’t specific enough to make it feel like you’re cheating. This is another great feature that will help and encourage gamers to continue on when feeling frustrated. Even if the hint doesn’t help, gamers can simply see a step-by-step diagram of how to complete the puzzles(I admit I had to use that option twice in the game).
Machinarium isn’t without its faults. A few of the puzzles felt like I was guessing to solve the puzzle instead of thinking. In point and click adventures, I want to feel like I’m solving puzzles because I’m thinking and making connections, not simply trying to use items on everything and hoping it will work.
Bobby’s Final Say: Get Machinarium. It’s cheap for a 7 hour (about how long it took me to complete the game) adventure. Like any good puzzler I got sucked into the game and found myself up in the middle of the night saying “just one more puzzle, just have to figure this last thing out.” If you still aren’t sure, download the demo and try not to succumb to Machinarium’s charm.