Machinarium is a dope little point ‘n’ click adventure game from those sexy chaps over at Amanita Design. It was released back in 2009 for super high end computers that only science people have access to.
In Machinarium, you assume the role of an adorable, unnamed robot who has been exiled from his home in the big city for reasons that are not initially clear. You’ll need to overcome taxing puzzles, outwit bigger, meaner robots and do some other game stuff too in order to get the little guy home safe and sound.
Point ‘n’ click fans should feel right at home with Machinarium as it does little to deviate from the established formula – you scroll your cursor over a bunch of crap while clicking the left button to pick it up, then you use it with other crap all while praying to the gods of puzzles that this particular combination of seemingly incompatible objects will be the one that progresses the story an inch further. This style of design clearly hasn’t aged well but Machinarium does employ some new tricks to help keep things from feeling stale. For one, the robot can extend his parts to reach high areas or scrunch his body down to access tight crawl spaces. An early example of this involves mimicking a tall robot guard by extending the robot’s torso. This is a genuinely interesting idea, albeit one that is unfortunately never really used to it’s full potential.
Unlike many other point ‘n’ click games, Machinarium features no dialogue or speech of any kind. Instead, characters in the game communicate their thoughts and desires through cartoons which play out in thought bubbles above their heads. This helps to maintain the world’s alien feel while still making the characters relatable and likeable. The cartoons themselves are an entertaining and often very informative alternative to text, offering subtle hints about the character’s motivations that simply would not be apparent otherwise.
BAD SEGUE ALERT.
Of course a bunch of interesting characters would be nothing without an interesting world for them to inhabit and this is where Machinarium really shines. The game looks absolutely stunning -- each and every environment has been hand drawn and beautifully rendered in 2D, packing in detail to an almost painstaking degree. I was constantly picking my Jaws DVD up off the floor because I kept knocking it over with excitement as I traversed from one screen to the next. It’s really not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most beautiful, exuberant game worlds ever created, up there with City 17, Rapture and the art supply level from Rayman.
Unfortunately, the puzzles just don’t match up to the quality of the world in which they exist. Machinarium is much more like The Dig than Monkey Island due to it’s larger emphasis on logic puzzles. One especially infuriating example involves playing a few games of Lights Out on a keypad for a couple of hours until you finally figure out the correct button patterns by accident. There is a hint menu that you can use but you have to play a crappy sidescroller shooter before the game deems you worthy of the solution. What the hell is the point of that? Is it there to deter players from using hints? If so, then why the f*** have a hint system in the first place?
As I really enjoy giving my hard earned cash to the games industry, I decided to purchase my copy of Machinarium legally. And boy was I ever rewarded for doing so. My copy came with a poster, the game’s soundtrack AND a case in which I can store the game when I’m not playing it, which is most of the time. The poster looks really sweet on my windshield, but it’s the soundtrack that has given me the most joy so far. It’s an awesome collection of clever pieces that avoid the repetitive pitfalls of your average point ‘n’ clicker. It’s been four months since I bought the game and the soundtrack is still one of the most played albums on my MP3 player, right behind The Best Of Missy Elliot and Steven Seagal: Live and Hilarious.
There are moments of greatness scattered throughout this six hour adventure, but most are overshadowed by silly design choices and poor puzzles. I came away from Machinarium craving more, but mostly because there was so little there to begin with. If you are a fan of point ‘n’ click adventure games then it’s definitely one you should consider, just be aware that this is not the new Monkey Island or Day Of The Tentacle you’ve been waiting for.