From the beginning of my gaming career (read: my life), point and click adventure or puzzle games have always been my fall-back when other games seem to lose their splendor over time. Sure, a game might be great graphics wise, or might blow your mind with a crazy fast paced storyline; but there’s something special about point and click games that seem to always captivate my attention: no matter how slow or fast it is or how good it looks, I’m a sucker for the move-at-your-own-pace-so-you-don’t-feel-stupid kind of game. So you can imagine the look on my face when this game was given to me for review:
Machinarium is the brainchild of Amanita Design, an incredibly small Czech developer that specializes in small point and click puzzle adventures. Machinarium is their sixth game, and it’s already had quite a life cycle before even hitting the Playstation Network. Originally released for PC, Mac, and Linux back in 2009, Machinarium won quite a few awards in its year of release. Scooping up two “Best Indie Game of 2009” Awards, as well as a “Best Soundtrack of 2009” Award. When a port to the Xbox 360 fell through because of Microsoft publishing rules, Amanita Design instead approached Sony with the prospect of bringing Machinarium to the PlayStation Network and secured a deal.
In Machinarium, you play as an interesting little robot named Josef. The Black Cap Brotherhood is up to no good and has stranded Josef away from the city and captured his girl! Only you can help Josef to undo all their mischief and save the day!
The gameplay mechanics in Machinarium are simple yet sound. Seeing as this is a point and click adventure, I decided to be literal and use my Splitfish Shark mouse controller. Almost anti-climatically, it worked perfectly. Gameplay is never much of an issue in these kind of games, but let’s discuss some of the mechanics. Josef is a robot who can store items that he finds inside himself, and can even combine them to make something new. You find these items by searching throughout the world, then by walking over to it and clicking on it to pick it up. Josef can also extend or contract his body to three different heights, depending on the situation. Even though you could potentially just move your cursor all over the screen trying to highlight options, the game is smarter than that. Since Josef can change his height, the game will sometimes only recognize an opportunity to click if you are at the correct height; say squatting to reach under a machine.
Of course, what is a puzzle game without puzzles? Some of the puzzles in Machinarium are almost unfair with how vague they are, and might have you moving across multiple screens trying to find an answer. If you do enough digging however, you will have no problem solving these, or at least setting yourself on a path towards success. Any gamer who has enough patience will certainly help unravel the fiendish plot of the Black Caps and save the city; you just might look at the hint screen more than some of us. Others who are more interested in the backstory of the game might want to merely stand and do nothing for a few moments. This causes a thought bubble to appear with about 4-5 different mini cutscenes of Josef’s past with his girlfriend.
Machinarium looks and feels like one of the most refined 2D point and click adventure games I’ve ever played. Maybe it’s the original artwork in the background, the detail that goes into things you might never look at, or the unique character design and sense of vastness the city gives. Or of course, a combination of all 3. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in the front of a scene only to find yourself walking through it again only in the background. Things like this give a sense of unity and stability to the world. Obviously this game is only two dimensional, but they easily accomplish a sense of depth with the previously mentioned details. The only graphical weakness that Machinarium has is something that plagues a lot of games where you have to notice small details. I like to call it the DragonBall Z effect. You can look at a piece of animation and a majority of the time see a slight difference in an object that signifies that something about it is going to change:
I think it’s pretty obvious which rock along the bottom is about to turn into pieces from the sheer awesome of Vegeta’s power. And this is an issue that sometimes plagues Machinarium. Some of the items you can pick up are dreadfully obvious, turning some of the hard puzzles into medium at best. However, I do freely admit that some puzzles might have been unsolvable without this issue; not to mention the fact that it’s notoriously difficult to blend non-static objects with a background. So it becomes a necessary evil.
The soundtrack for Machinarium is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Tomáš Dvořák wrote, composed, mixed, and produced 14 amazing tracks that set a perfect frame of reference and tone for each scene. At some points it’s such perfect background music that you don’t even stop to think that this was actually written for a game, you think you might be in a real world. The music is most definitely immersive, and adds to the experience several times over. I highly applaud Mr. Dvořák for his triumph here. The game audio itself is simple, with characters communicating through mere grunts and squeaks. I found that this actually gave the game a certain charm, and allowed me to connect with my character better. When I didn’t have to worry about any sort of language or spoken word, I was able to really dig into the aural quality of the music more.
All in all, playing this game knowing that it was created for a mere $1,000 blew my mind. Machinarium is a great and wonderful little experience. It can range anywhere from just a couple hours if you are a puzzle master and can think abstractly, to somewhere more around my time of 5 hours. I was checking each and every little nook and cranny and just enjoying this neat little world that Amanita Designs has created. For the price, I highly recommend it. Solid Gameplay, wonderful artwork, an absolutely fantastic soundtrack, and a connection to your character all come together to make Machinarium a delightful mouthful of a game that becomes something more, if you let it. There are 12 trophies, all of which are story related.
Just watch out for the Tic-Tac-Toe / Connect 5 Mashup. It’s a doozy.
I had a wonderful time with this game, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with the brainpower to spare. It’s been mentioned that there is also a PS Vita version in the making, so keep an eye out for that too. I’d also like to give a big shout out and a huge thank you to Amanita Design for giving us the review code and making such a great game. Hit up their site and check out their other games here.
Score: A solid,
Publisher: Self Published by Amanita Design Developer: Amanita Design
October 16, 2009 for PC, OS X, Linux
September 8, 2011 for iPad 2
September 6, 2012 for EU PSN
October 9, 2012 for NA PSN
Platforms: PC, OS X, Linux, PS3, iPad, Android Digital: Yes
$9.99 on PSN (NA), 7.99€ on PSN (EU)
$10 for PC, OS X, Linux
$4.99 on Android,
$4.99 on iOS