Published by: Amanita Design
Developed by: Amanita Design
Point and click adventure games looked for a while as though they had gone for good. We fans of the genre had all but given up hope, the genre seemed to come slowly back to life with a string of mediocre titles and a sprinkling that were genuinely enjoyable games. It's been years since we had a point and click adventure that was truly special but, in the shape of Machinarium, we finally have a game that's full of imagination and puzzles that are actually challenging.
The storyline in Machinarium is simplistic but endearing nevertheless. You'll play as a small robot who has been thrown out of his city and into a scrap yard. He'll have to make his way back to the city, rescue his girlfriend and sort out the group of evil robots known as the Black Cap Brotherhood, who are intending to wreak havoc upon the city. The game's storyline isn't anything special but the way it's told is rather pleasing and it ties all of the various puzzles together in a very pleasant fashion.
If you're an experienced adventure gamer and have become sick and tired of how simplified the genre has become over the last five years or so you'll welcome the genuinely challenging puzzles in Machinarium. You won't get away with simply pushing blocks around here and you'll really have to apply some thought and logic in order to solve the puzzles. Initially it's all kept fairly straightforward as you'll find the items you need to solve a puzzle within the same location. However as soon as you solve the puzzle and move forward to your next location, your inventory is wiped clean. As you progress further into the game, you'll find yourself having to acquire bits and pieced from various locations in order to solve puzzles; which incidentally become quite difficult as the game progresses. That said, it's genuinely satisfying when you finally figure out what needs to be done and as a result it's definitely one of the most rewarding experiences in the adventure game genre for quite a few years. The game also has a built in hint system to assist you should you be completely stuck at any point. You can either gain a general hint or a complete solution for a puzzle, although you'll have to play through a mini-game in order to gain a peek at the complete solution.
The game has been made using Adobe Flash and right clicking (which is something you would usually do to send an item back to your inventory) does nothing but bring up the settings menu. To seasoned adventure gamers this will become a minor source of irritation during the course of the game as you have to manually put every item back into your inventory rather than dismissing it with a right click. Some may moan about the game's brevity (around six to seven hours in total) but if you are working out the puzzles for yourself, you'll probably get at least a dozen or so hours from the game and for its low asking price that's more than acceptable.
Visually, the game is very impressive and has its own distinct art style that's impossible to fault. The little robot you control animates wonderfully well and is full of charm whether he's putting items in his mouth or picking up his bottom, which has a tendency to sag from time to time. The various locations you'll find yourself in and the various robots you'll encounter all look great too. The game runs well on even fairly old PC's. I was surprised at how well the game ran on an old PC of mine which had an AMD Duron Processor so essentially the game should run absolutely fine on any PC from the last five years or so.
Machinarium is one of those rare games that doesn't need speech to communicate with the player. In fact it doesn't even rely on text. No dialogue is needed in Machinarium as you'll understand what every character is thinking through their gestures and thoughts (which play out in comic book style thought bubbles). Even the game's hint system uses pictures to get its message across. Some may think that this might be a limiting way of communicating with the player but in actual fact it's anything but that. You're not subjected to any boring or uninspiring dialogue and anyone, regardless of the language they speak and whether they can hear or not, can appreciate the story that's being told. We should point out however that the lack of speech doesn't mean that there are no problems for deaf gamers. Indeed, there is a puzzle right at the end of the game that requires the ability to hear. You have to play a tune that you've heard in order to reveal a ladder which you'll need to climb to complete the game. Without the ability to hear you're either relying on guess work or looking at a walkthrough which is a real shame and as such, we have to award the game a DGC rating of E.
For anyone with even a shred of interest in the adventure game genre, Machinarium is an essential purchase. Don't be fooled by the low asking price, this is a quality game from start to finish. The game contains genuinely challenging puzzles, likeable characters and a beautiful visual style. In fact, it's fair to say that if this game had been a full price title, it still would have been worth every penny. It's a shame it's not completely deaf gamer friendly but the final puzzle aside, there are no real problems. Those who are new to adventure games and who are not used to puzzles that can genuinely stump you, might find the difficulty level of the puzzles in Machinarium to be something of a shock. However, seasoned adventure gamers will be delighted that for the first time in years we have a top quality adventure game that really does make you think.