Developer: Amanita Design
Price: $9.99 (£5.99)
Description: Beautiful Hand-Drawn Point-and-Click
Pros: Stunning graphics and sound, engaging characters, intelligent puzzles.
Cons: Could be longer (you can never get enough).
Advised Control Method: All (mouse preferred)
What would you get if you mixed Otto Matic with The Secret of Monkey Island and then applied that to a wonderful world of machinery and robots? What you might get would be something near Machinarium. Even then the game doesn’t deserve to be compared and contrasted with others. Machinarium is in a whole new league of its own and makes for an interesting and emotionally engaging experience, one that I have never seen before.
Machinarium is set in a world where robots are the centrepiece to everything. You won’t find any real humans in Machinarium, but instead rusted metal and cranky cogs. But this certainly isn’t the Utopia we might imagine in the human-less world of the future. Instead everything seems oily and grimy which delivers a realistic atmosphere to the game.
You play as one such robot who has been dumped away from the main city in a pile of discarded objects. You have no idea how or why you got there but that is one great thing about Machinarium. You have no idea who you are or what is the world you inhabit. You meet the strangest of people along the way, and as you progress you start to work out the physical and social aspects of your world which is really interesting, especially when its all occupied by oil-running machines.
The game is designed as a point-and-click side scroller where you must complete an objective by collecting and combining objects in your environment. Another part of the game is puzzles. But unlike some puzzle games, the puzzles in Machinarium have an incentive. You don’t just do them for the sake of it. The puzzle may open a certain cupboard or connect pieces together in a circuit to let the electricity flow. What’s more, these regular breaks help vary the gameplay and keep you on your feet.
But like all point-and-click games, they can get pretty tricky. Not including the sometimes infuriating, yet craftily created, puzzles, Machinarium has some hard environmental puzzles as well. So what if you do get hopelessly stuck? Thankfully, Machinarium has a brilliant hint system. Firstly, you have a little lightbulb symbol at the top of the screen which indicates your end goal and what you are trying to achieve. But if that doesn’t help then you can take a peek at the book of secrets. This is a book that contains sketches of the solutions. However, the book is locked and to unlock it you must play a very easy mini-game. Once unlocked you can access the solution for that puzzle. This method is so ingenious as I didn’t find myself constantly going to the hint button as soon as I got stuck as I knew I had to work for it and play the mini-game. Even though it isn’t hard, it takes time.
I still haven’t touched on the main reason you should buy Machinarium: the graphics. The robot universe is conveyed beautifully, visually and aurally. The stunning hand-drawn animations never cease to amaze. The sound works hand in hand with the visuals to create a lively and exciting atmosphere, one that is rarely seen in 2D games today.
The bottom line is that Machinarium is all about the experience. The characters really seem to come alive and make an impression. The graphics are just unbelievable, not to mention the amount of polish in every movement and every frame. Once you start playing Machinarium, you get sucked into this imaginative world that you can’t pull yourself away from. Simply brilliant.