Set in a lovingly hand painted mechanical city, Amanita Design’s point-and-click-style adventure boasts a stunning array of scenes for you to indulge and drool over. Each frame allowing you to interact with seemingly unconnected objects which, when combined in the correct sequence of events, allows you to progress forward.
Your robot hero, Josef (named after Josef Čapek) must travel through the outs and innards of a rusted city. Armed only with the ability to consume and regurgitate useful gubbins at will and extend or contract his body to reach objects and switches at different heights. The goal to is to combine all manner of resources to open ways to the next frame as well as to solve classic arcade style puzzles. Along your urban adventure you’ll meet a plethora of amazingly designed characters, each robot unique and all play a small part. Some you’ll aid by running errands and others you’ll thwart with cunning puzzle mastery.
Starting out in the game, you’ll have a simple introduction in how to interact with the world around you. If you can reach it, and it’s of importance, then pick it up or fiddle with it. No matter how seemingly useless that stick is or why you have to make that large extractor fan angry.. Just do it.. I didn’t find a single item or interaction pointless after discovering its use. And it’s all very entertaining watching everything fall into place, this game is filled with individual animations for everything Josef has to work with.
The games intriguing approach to story telling relies only on thought bubbles, there’s no pretending that these robots have any kind of limited facial expressions or ability to talk conventionally. But nevertheless, this unique take on story telling allows for a charming and simple way of conveying the plot. And the visuals more than make up for holding your interest. After all, what could be more simple or fulfilling than a robot struggling to save his kidnapped lady-bot and defuse a bomb strapped to the highest spire in the city. A timeless cliché that doesn’t diminish the games charisma or distract from the feeling of accomplishment on completing each puzzle.
The game’s inbuilt walkthrough feature is something I’ve not come across before. A locked book icon in the top right hand corner of the screen links you to a frustratingly slow and merciless mini-game in which you have to manoeuvre a key to shoot spiders and avoid crashing into bricks. Hitting either will force you to start again or give up. But once completed, the book yields the the steps you have to take to move forward. With the game’s curious style of puzzles this book can be a saviour if endured. There were a few times at 3am when my feeble mind couldn’t handle the complexity of navigating different sized lines or squares through mazes. And so turning to the book helped ease the progression and flow of the game somewhat. As menial as this feature is, it forces you to really think weather you need the extra help or not. Which is a step up from games like ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’s Help Button. But to be fair if you can complete that game without that button chances are you’re not very well equipped to deal with how banal the world really is.. As a bonus, when you unlock the book you get a lovely hand drawn step by step guide to what you need to do in the particular frame you’re in. Be warned though, if what you need to do isn’t in the frame your standing in, you’ll have to move on and start the mini game again in a different location.
My only real gripe with the game is how slow Josef walks from place to place. But that stems from years of playing fast paced hack and slash games, where if it’s not dead in two minutes you’ll be eaten alive.. But give this game some patience and you won’t be disappointed..
Developed over three years on a shoe-string budget of $1000, this game has been built with the care and attention of some astonishing people. To sum up, Machinarium is gorgeous. It’s delicious for your eyes, and a puzzling treat for your brain. Go play it!