Matt Reich

Machinarium: A Beautiful, Industrial Puzzle Game

Puzzle style adventure games have never exactly been my “thing”. I’m not a hardcore gamer, but when I do play, I usually stay away from these types of games. After deciding to expand my horizons, I looked around in this genre and spotted Machinarium. The screenshots of the game immediately drew my attention. The visuals were absolutely stunning and enough to get me to venture off into the realm of puzzle/adventure gaming.

Machinarium is a point and click game that takes place in a magical industrial environment full of amazing sights and sounds. You must solve puzzles of varying complexity within the environment in order to move forward in the game. Does the gameplay measure up to the graphics? Read on to find out.

Design

Machinarium is a point and click adventure puzzle solving style game and the world in which this game takes place is completely amazing. I found myself just looking around the beautifully designed levels. The detail on the illustrations and animations is definitely something to pay attention to. I can see how this could hinder the gameplay, but overall I think there is a nice balance. We’ll talk more about the actual gameplay here in a bit, but first up let’s talk about the world that is Machinarium.

Environment

The world is interesting enough to keep you fully immersed, which certainly adds to the game. This isn’t a non-stop action game so you do have some time to “smell the roses” (or maybe oil in this case) so to speak. The hand-drawn, dark, industrial landscapes are beautiful to look at and fit with the concept of the game. The ambient, electronic soundtrack has an oddly peaceful yet industrial feel to it and adds a whole other level of immersion.

Machinarium - Opening Landscape

Subtle animations pop up everywhere in this beautiful environment. Some are simply background animations and just flat out look cool while others are actually part of the game. Whether moving a crane, pulling a crank or pushing a dumpster, it is all done very well and fits seamlessly with the rest of this little world. I was wowed by what I saw on more than one occasion.

Machinarium - Another landscape

Something else that is a bit interesting about the environment Machinarium takes place in is that there is no spoken or written language anywhere. The storyline is conveyed through dreams and thoughts that you’ll see in comic style idea bubbles. It is an interesting way to let the story unfold, it adds some mysteriousness and even a bit of humor to the environment.

Really, the game is worth checking out just because of its beautiful landscapes. Each new screen feels like it could be a painting hanging on my wall. It is just flat out visually stunning.

Characters

The characters in this game are robots of all varying types and sizes. You’ll encounter many different types of robots on your quest that all do different things and have their own personalities. Though the game does have a somewhat dark feel about it, there is absolutely some underlying humor. The characters are quite funny not only in how they look but how they act.

In fact as I’m writing this I’m just watching a couple characters wait for me to return to the game play. They are making all sorts of entertaining movements and the main character has even been dreaming (line drawing style dreaming of course). The game designers did a wonderful job giving these characters personality and have used no words at all. You’re able to get a sense for what our main character is all about just by his mannerisms and thoughts. This makes you take a bit more ownership in the story.

Machinarium - wine making robot

It’s worth mentioning the animation of the characters in Machinarium here as well. Like everything else you’ll see throughout the environment, the character animations fit well and are quite entertaining. Like I mentioned, the game does have a bit of a dark feel, but the personality and the humor really comes out with how the characters interact with the space around them and with each other. Honestly it’s a little difficult to explain a lot of the exact interactions, but let’s just say you will be cracking smiles frequently. Even the way the robots walk around is amusing. It’s just done really well, and adds a ton of personality to the game.

Machinarium - dreaming

Gameplay

I think the easiest way to go about this is to just walk you through some typical gameplay and discuss what exactly is going on. The story begins in a mucky looking junk pile where the pieces of your robot are tossed about. You put yourself together and begin your journey. Right from the start, what exactly you’ll be doing on your journey isn’t apparent. The story will continue to unfold through your character’s thoughts and dreams. From the beginning you’ll get the feeling that your character has always been the peweny robot in the junkyard and has always gotten pushed around. It’s that classic “little guy can do it” sort of story. It’s easy to get on board with the plight of this little guy.

It is a point and click type of game so you’ll be doing doing a lot that as you work your way through. You click to where you want the little guy to walk and off he goes to that spot. You’ll be able to interact with various items as you move along. Hovering your mouse over the item will indicate if it is something you can interact with. Picking up items is also possible and is actually crucial part of the game. These items are needed to perform certain tasks and to solve certain puzzles. To add a level of complexity items may be combined and then used. So things get tricky pretty quickly. There is a lot to interact with.

Moving about in this world is pretty progressive, meaning you’ll mainly be moving forward from one screen to the next while sometimes jumping back a screen or two in an effort to solve a puzzle. You’ll spend the game attempting to move forward. There is always something blocking your way and you need to figure out what you can do to move past it.

The game is essentially one puzzle after another. There are even some smaller interwoven puzzles that you’ll need to solve along the way. For example, you may need to lower a crane and the controls to do so aren’t exactly straight forward. You need to figure out which buttons need to be lit up. That’s a pretty basic example, but you get the idea. They aren’t incredibly tough, but there were plenty tricky enough to hang my non-puzzle-tuned mind up pretty good.

Machinarium - mini puzzle Overall, solving the puzzles was challenging, but not impossible. I definitely got hung up and there were even some times of frustration. If you are struggling, you are able to use a couple hints in each space. Checking a hint will pop up an idea bubble for your robot illustrating a part of what needs to be done next.

You’re only able to view a certain amount of these in each area so you need to use them sparingly. Most of the time these are enough to give you that little kick forward but sometimes you may need a bit more. In those situations you can play a mini arcade game to unlock a book that will show you some sketches of the process to solve puzzle. The arcade games aren’t difficult, but it is a pain to go through that process every time you want to look at the cheat sheet.

Machinarium - cheat book

I was a little skeptical that a game like this would grab my attention but Machinarium’s gameplay really did. The environment, combined with the animation and the way you interact with everything, is really very engaging. And there’s nothing like a good brain teaser to get a person mildly obsessed.

Conclusion

I’m not a huge gamer, and this is not the typical type of game that I go for when I’m looking for one. When I saw Machinarium by chance browsing the App Store the imagery caught my eye immediately. Admittedly that is what brought me in, but the actual world that has been created by the developers and the gameplay within it is what kept my attention.

I’ve always thought of the purpose of a video game as being something that can temporarily transport to you another world and take your thoughts and troubles out of your mind for a bit. I wasn’t expecting this quite as much from this type of game, but I was very wrong.

The ambient sounds and the overall feel of the environment does an absolutely amazing job of transporting you into that world. That combined with working through the puzzles is more than enough to keep your mind occupied and give you a bit of a break from the rigors of real life. It serves as a wonderful mind escape and also a sleep depriver as you may find yourself saying things like “I just want to get past this one thing before I go to bed” over and over.

Machinarium is in that wonderful space of being a beautifully designed game while also being very entertaining and engaging. You will lose yourself in the beautiful landscapes, be challenged by the puzzles, get a laugh from the characters and animation and have a great time each step of the way.

May_l 23, 2012

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