There’s nothing like waking up after being unceremoniously dumped into a heap of scrap only to find your head and limbs have gone missing amidst the filthy debris. Making a crummy situation worse, mechanical hooligans have strapped a large, makeshift bomb to the central tower in the looming industrial city you were just booted from, and your shiny lady friend is nowhere to be found. Being a little droid in a gritty robot world is tough business, but it’s worth pushing through the many seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ll face in order to get to the heart of what makes Machinarium tick.
Developer Amanita Design (Samarost 1 and 2) really knocks it out of the park with its latest indie point-and-click adventure – a game that’s so creatively offbeat and impeccably stylish that we’ll forgive the fact that it shakes the dusty book of antiquated adventure games long past in our face at every stretch of the way.
Machinarium doesn't pull its punches. It's unabashedly old-school tough, and there are many moments where the adventure can come grinding to a halt while you spend a solid hour agonizing over what random widget needs to be fitted where. Even so, the puzzles littering this troubled mechanical realm are astoundingly designed. The game also sports one of the coolest hint systems we’ve ever encountered. You have to play a side-scrolling shooter mini-game each time you want to unlock the tome that contains elaborate hand-drawn sketches detailing how to attack the tougher puzzles in a given level.
Helping a robotic jazz band repair their damaged instruments so they can jam out again, racking up a high score in a pedal bike-powered arcade to gather money for a vending machine, and distilling sunflower seed oil to fix an old-timer’s rusty joints are only a few of the myriad tasks you’ll accomplish en-route to saving the city. Many of the game’s challenges are multi-step affairs that require a mixture of exploration, item hunting, and straight-up puzzle solving. While slowly clunking around each meticulously drawn area, the game’s small metal hero can be vertically stretched or compacted to get at higher or lower objects – a necessity, since the little fellow can only directly interact with things within his immediate reach.
Machinarium’s distinct visual style and seamless animations are etched with a staggering level of detail, and few games come close to possessing the sheer beauty found here. Each setting and the peculiar robotic characters populating this futuristic land is brimming with dark personality. Seeing how different areas of the game, the characters, and the plot itself connect in surprising, circular ways makes the journey all the more wondrous. Even if adventure games aren’t your bag, you’d be remiss to pass up giving this one a spin. It might just change your mind.
Oct 29, 2009