Product Type: Mazoom PC games
Newest Review: ... as well as winning several gaming awards including the Best Soundtrack award from PC Gamer a few years ago. You can even buy the soundtr... more
Member Name: PCLM
Date: 08/04/10, updated on 21/04/10 (37 review reads)
Advantages: Fresh/unique gameplay, taxing puzzles, nice game length, memorable visuals/characters/story
Disadvantages: Many of the puzzles are trickier than you might be used to
Innovation is the byword over at Amanita Design, the development centre of Machinarium. With Machinarium we are treated not only to a fantastic and taxing adventure game, but an adventure game like no other we've seen before. If it's possible to have a word like "genius" associated with video game design, I think now is the time to dust it off and switch it on.
~ [ Development ] ~
The game is very much a labour of love. Developed over the course of three years, financed by the game's developers themselves to the tune of $1,000, the small Czech Jakub Dvorský-led company dripped every ounce of free time and expertise they had into Machinarium, and it shows.
The game is built upon Adobe Flash, with the game's demo being an in-browser Flash game itself. You would never guess from playing the game that it is a Flash game, and it's probably the best implementation of Flash technology I've ever seen.
~ [ Plot ] ~
An abandoned and hated robot by the name of Josef, dumped in a scrapheap in the city of Machinarium's landfill, struggles to survive in the dystopian industrialised world from which he was rejected. He reassembles himself the best he can, and in the process discovers a plot to blow up the city's tower. The plotters, The Black Cap Brotherhood, are a band of villainous robots who've left a trail of misery in their wake, stealing from the other robots in the city and imprisoning Josef's girlfriend. Josef sets out to undo the damage caused, prevent the terrorist plot from reaching completion and rescuing his enslaved girlfriend.
~ [ Gameplay ] ~
Unlike games of its ilk Machinarium contains no dialogue whatsoever; all communication is carried out through the use of iconography and thought bubbles. The game revolves around the solving of puzzles or the winning of minigames. The first set of puzzles you must complete involve finding and reattaching missing body parts, and regaining access to the city from which you were exiled. Thereafter you will be wading your way through the rusted, industrialised game world solving logic puzzles and helping NPCs with their various problems, which invariably entails further puzzle solving.
The game mechanics are centred around the use of your computer mouse. You can stretch Josef several feet higher so that he can reach objects down from above, and vice versa. Interacting with objects and NPCs requires you to walk close enough to them for the action to be performed, otherwise Josef will simply give an irritated whine by way of disapproval. Many of the puzzles involve the combining of inventory objects or using objects with NPCs or the environment, objects which are picked up from the game's various levels. The minigame puzzles include tic-tac-toe (surprisingly one of the trickiest parts of the game), a sliding tile puzzle, a game of Space Invaders, join the dots, and so on. The minigames tend to be locking mechanisms for doorways or elevators, which offer access after the successful completion of the puzzle.
Most of the puzzles are solvable using logic, rather than guesswork or brute-force tactics (that is, using every object you have with every other one, hoping to accidentally nail a correct combination, which is something I've had to do with several adventure games in my time!). That said, the puzzles are generally far from easy. I mean, you can solve 5,000 calculus problems using logic but it ain't gonna be a cakewalk! I had to consult a walkthrough three or four times because I just couldn't get beyond a certain point, having already wasted an hour on a single problem and growing ever more frustrated. When I read the solution to the puzzle I was stuck on I slapped my forehead and said "of course!"; my advice to you is to pay close attention and concentrate on everything that's going on around Josef. And there's no shame in jotting down notes when you encounter a lengthy minigame puzzle which leaves you befuddled. Resist the urge to use walkthroughs unless you've really reached the end of your tether, because there is always a logical and workable solution staring you in the face. The game has a built in hint system which will give you a simple visual clue as to what you need to do next, although the hint given usually requires a degree of deciphering itself.
When you encounter a new NPC you'll be treated to a brief and intriguing thought bubble exposition of what they need, how they got there or what you have to do to progress. The Black Cap Brotherhood inevitably makes an appearance in these sequences. The lack of dialogue, and the use of imagery to convey meaning, is fantastic; it completely cuts out the often inane chatter adventure gamers are subjected to, and it gives you a strong and full understanding of the situation in a matter of seconds. I'm sure it's also a Godsend to deaf or hard of hearing gamers.
The gameplay feels fresh, despite the fact that pretty much every adventure game consists of the same elements. There's a certain innovative flavour to how these common elements are implemented, which belies their commonality. You get a real sense that you're participating in something new, unique and fascinating.
~ [ Graphics/Performance ] ~
One of the game's primary successes is its enthralling 2D visuals. Everything in the game is hand-drawn, and there's an immediate magnetism for that reason; you feel intrigued and sucked in by the effort and the detail.
The game's visuals are a rusted, mechanical, industrial-looking affair. Machinarium is a city of robots, for robots, by robots. The characters are all vastly different from each other, and this wide variation keeps the game feeling new and gives you an incentive to keep going. The backdrops are likewise varied and beautiful, in their own dilapidated depressed way. There is a certain bleakness about the game's world and story, and the graphics bolster this feeling in spades.
The minimum system requirements are as follows:
[Operating System]: Windows XP or later, Mac OSX 10.4 or later and Linux (the Linux version may or may not work, so try the free demo first)
[CPU]: 1.6GHz or better
[Hard Drive Space]: At least 380MB
You should note that the minimum screen resolution the game can be played at is 1024x768.
The game contains no DRM.
~ [ Soundtrack ] ~
The soundtrack consists of hypnotic, synth-mechanised passages which haunt and augment the game's decaying industrial levels. The soundtrack was written by Tomás Dvorák, a Czech gaming enthusiast who has also scored Amanita Design's other games, Samorost and Samorost 2. The full soundtrack, in MP3 format, is provided to customers who buy the game.
It adds to the strange and unusual character of the game, although I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to listen to it separately; it's mainly an atmospheric, hypnotic, ambient massaging of the eardrums.
~ [ Buying ] ~
You can buy the game directly from the official website [http://www.machinarium.net/] or you can buy it through your favourite digital game distributor. Supported digital distributors include Steam, Direct2Drive, Impulse and GamersGate. The game is also available on CD at extra cost.
There is currently a collector's edition of the game which includes the game on disc, the soundtrack with five extra tracks, a booklet with exclusive concept art, a game poster and an official walkthrough. You can buy this from most online stores, including Amazon.co.uk and Play.com. Obviously this is more expensive than the standard game.
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
Machinarium is a success in every respect; in its gameplay, its graphics, its soundtrack, its story and its overall tone. Amanita Design have created a unique, otherworldly gaming experience with the perfect marriage of these attributes being integral to its character. Play the demo on the official website to get a taste of what the game is about, and then buy it.
Summary: It is without hyperbole that I say Machinarium is one of the finest games I've ever played.