Machinarium,from developer Amanita Design, is a trippy puzzle game with ingenious head scratchers that takes place in a steam-punked Dr. Seuss world; a lovely soundtrack and quirky story round out a great game.
There is no introduction to the whittled down story; the player starts out in a dump as a dismantled robot (who the developers later identified as Josef in a forum post; named after Josef Čapek, the inventor of the word ‘robot’). Eventually it is revealed that some jerks are ruining everything in their path, and they must be stopped. The full details of the story aren’t revealed until near the end of the game however. What little story there is takes place in black and white scribbly cutscenes in speech or thought bubbles. Characters don’t talk so much as grumble; think adults talking in Charlie Brown, only robotier and more pleasant on the ears. If idle for too long, thought bubbles pop up from Josef’s head showing some backstory to the quirky character. These minor cutscenes do a surprisingly great job of giving the story and characters personality. The reason to play Machinarium is not for its cute story and characters however, it is for the puzzles.
The six and a half hour campaign features a myriad of unique puzzles. The 2D Josef traverses the 3D world using classic-adventure game style point and click. The point and click method of control works a lot better on the PC than the PS3; moving the pointer from one edge of the screen to the other using the analog stick got annoying quickly. There are set points Josef can travel to in each screen encompassing zone, and every location serves a purpose in some puzzle or another. Items found along the way are stored inside Josef. Once items are used to solve a puzzle they are taken away in a clever manner, creating a very manageable and small inventory throughout the game.
The enigmas range from tasking the player to illuminate panels in a Lights-Out-esque game, to figuring out how to get money to buy batteries to repower a guard’s toy friend so that he will stop blocking the way. Figuring out what is needed to progress kept me constantly scanning each area for items and clues.
If the puzzles are proving too difficult, a single hint is available for each area. At times this helped, but other times it showed me what I already knew, without actually showing me how to do it. Luckily for my feeble mind, if a further hint is needed to advance a sidescrolling 2-D shooter can be completed to unlock step by step directions to solve each area.
The sound track is an amazing blend of electronic music and soothing sounds; every note of Lumines reminiscent music is delightful. Even when stuck on a puzzle, the relaxing soundtrack diffused any anger I felt. Just as wonderful as the music, the picturesque taupe world is beautiful.
Machinarium’s Dr. Seuss-esque world, serene music, and thought provoking puzzles make this one of the most rewarding puzzle games I have ever played.