Put J.J. Abram’s Bad Robot in a world off the cover of Korn’s Follow the Leader and you can begin to imagine what it’s like to be in the world of Machinarium.
Machinarium starts out with no instructions or storyline to speak of. You are a robot who has been thrown into the junkyard by what appears to be a flying dump truck. You don’t have all your pieces, and it’s unclear just what you’re capable of accomplishing.
Step in old school game play!
It’s a point and click adventure like we’ve all probably come across at one point in time or another. One thing that’s nice about it is the cursor, which is a typical mouse cursor. Your robot can stretch up and down by scrolling over him and using the vertical resizing cursor. If you can interact with an object, it becomes the ‘flash finger’ and lets you know you can push that button, or pick that item up. There is a hint system, with basic hint per level, and then a walkthrough book if you are genuinely stuck. However, the walkthrough book is a small flight simulator game of its own, so you don’t have immediate access to it.
The game gives you a brief overlay of this and then moves right into it. You’re expected to reassemble yourself and head back to town for who knows what reason. It’s up to you to figure that out!
With minimal communication to what needs to be done, the game alerts you by animations in thought bubbles above your robot’s head or another robot’s head. In fact there is no dialogue in this game. At all. All the communication is done in this way. It may seem strange, but one can hardly miss the dialogue with humorous cartoons telling the story or the next goal.
Machinarium came with the second Humble Indie Bundle that I got last year. I got decently far the first time I played it, but hadn’t touched a steam game for some time. I made a deal with myself to beat the games before the next steam holiday sale. Well, no time like the present to begin. (Especially because if I don’t, then I won’t be getting myself any games off the Steam store this year. Bastion looks way too sweet to pass up, so I better get cracking).
I especially enjoyed the inventory of this game, because once an object has worn out its use (and most of them are one time uses) the game will discard it in some humorous way. The game doesn’t try to force awkward usages from items that are completely unintuitive (a la Discworld) and each screen / area has its own item set that you’ll use up before advancing.
FUN: 4/5 - The game is very cute and unique. I can't remember the last time I played a game that used no words to tell the story and had such a rich storyline and unique play. This game was really fun, and I imagine playing it on the iPad2 would be very cool.
DIFFICULTY: 3.5/5 - Some of the mini-puzzles took a little while and added to the difficulty of the game. I think the Tower of Hanoi was the only game not covered in this. Most of the basic game play, such as what items are to be used where, are pretty simple, especially if you pay attention to where you got the item.
PLAYABILITY: 5/5 - With the brief instructions they give you in the beginning, I'm pretty sure that anyone that can click a mouse can play this game. It doesn't even require command of the English language. If you can't understand the initial instructions, it's pretty easy to see what's going on by just clicking things and getting a feel for it.
FRUSTRATION FACTOR: 4/5 - Some of the mini-games lasted way too long and were super annoying. It wasn't a matter of if you were going to solve the puzzle or not, some of them were just trail and error, over and over again until you got it right.
BEST TAKEAWAY MOMENT - Doing away with the bad guys. I don't want to spoil anything more than that.
OVERALL ASSESSMENT 4.5/5 - This game was a lot of fun. There were definitely some annoying parts to it, but I was pleased with most of it.