If there's one thing we like here at Destructoid, it's robots; if there's two things we like, it's robots and adventure games. When we received a preview copy of Machinarium this weekend, our excitement was as unsurprising as it was vocal (Chad literally used about half dozen smiley-face emoticons after receiving the download link).
If you haven't heard of Machinarium, it's an atmospheric, hauntingly well-illustrated indie adventure title from the guys who made Samorost. Currently slated for an October 2009 release, Machinarium looks to be a remarkably long (our preview had 23 playable levels out of an ostensible 28) slice of surreal indie adventuring -- but is it any good?
After the jump, Anthony Burch, Chad Concelmo, Ashley Davis, and Jonathan Ross weigh in on what looks to be a truly polarizing experience.
The game's just too fucking hard to me, for all the wrong reasons. When I finally solve a puzzle, my reaction isn't "Oh, how clever -- why didn't I think of that earlier," which is an emotion I feel constantly while playing some of my favorite adventure games. What I feel is more of a "Wait -- I could have clicked on that?"
I think I managed to break the game, but I don't hold that against it since it's an uncompleted demo (I'm gonna restart and dive in more tomorrow). I got to the sewer escape and moved to the room with the guard, but when I moved back, the propeller thing + broom was gone from my inventory.
It just feels like lazy design to me, in a way. Like, why bother designing legitimately interesting and forthcoming puzzles in the same way that Professor Layton does, when you could just force the player to hunt around for little bibs and bobs before they can actually do any real thinking? I don't mean to compare the game to Layton, because it's so obviously different, but that game and a few recent adventure titles I've played (the better episodes of Telltale's episodic series, for instance) really pleased me in that they often outright told you what needed to be done and what objects you had at your disposal, and then forced you to think within those constraints. I don't really see the virtue in being needlessly vague when it comes to puzzle-solving.
I guess I disagree that the puzzles are vague -- I think they just require a bit more thinking than the average puzzle game.
Oh my gosh, I never thought I would say this (out loud), but I vehemently disagree with you on this one, Anthony. I know we are going to battle to the death on a volcano, but it was comforting to know that before it happened we could talk about how amazing Half-Life 2 and Shadow of the Colossus are. Now, we have something to argue about before I throw your weeping body into a pool of molten lava. Fun!
If you enjoyed the old-school Sierra parser interface, I can more readily understand why you'd enjoy Machinarium. I hated parsers because you were basically playing a game of "try to guess what the designer is thinking," which is admittedly what most adventure games are, but they put so much focus on the irrelevant parts of the puzzle-solving (what exact words need to be typed to complete something you have a pretty general idea of what to do, trying to figure out exactly what commands the parser will and will not understand) that most of those older games are frustrating far more often than they aren't.
Also, I just want to clarify -- I'm not calling for a way-too-easy adventure game structure where all you really have to do is click everything in a random order and eventually you'll come across a solution (as is the case in the lesser Telltale episodes). I just want the game to be forthcoming about what items and basic devices you've got at your disposal, so you can focus on solving the puzzle with what you've got rather than (ironically) running all around the screen trying to click everything in close proximity just to make sure you've collected everything you can. Haven't you ever looked up a walkthrough for an old adventure game or something, only to find the reason you were stuck is because you hadn't found a secret little inventory item tucked away on some corner of the screen? When you finally solved the puzzle after getting that little bit of help, it didn't feel transcendent or cool -- it felt unsatisfying and douchey.
I actually totally agree with you on that last part -- well, maybe I wouldn't use the term "douchey," though. Haha. Having recently played through a handful of old Sierra games, I was considering writing a feature on how they are almost physically impossible to beat without some sort of guide or, at the time, pay-per-minute hint line. In that regard, I see what you are saying.
Or more likely, you'll realize Chad is a little bitch.
I have to side with Anthony on this one. Um, not that last part, but the rest. I love Chad!
Uh oh, I feel a West Side Story-style gang fight brewin' between Ashley/Anthony and Chad/Jonathan concerning Machinarium.
I'm glad we're using dance instead of knives.
I'm using a knife.
Your knife has nothing on my jazz hands.
I actually tape knives to my shoes and then do capoeira.
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