Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Machinarium

Review: Machinarium

2:00 PM on 10.19.2009 // Anthony Burch

Machinarium may be the best adventure game I've ever played.

I don't know if I prefer it outright over the motion-controlled glory that is Zack and Wiki, or the wacky time-travel-laffs of Chariots of the Dogs, but I do know that if you're even remotely interested in adventure or puzzle games, you'd be a complete fool not to check out Machinarium.

I know I was pretty harsh on the game in our preview a few months ago, but thanks to a new hint system and a few more hours of playtime, I can confidently type the three boldface words that adorn the header of every review I write for a great adventure game that I fear might not sell enough copies to support its developers:

BUY THIS GAME.

Hit the jump if you wanna know why.

erere

Machinarium (PC)
Developer: Amanita Design

Publisher: Amanita Design, Steam, Direc2Drive, Impulse, GamersGate
Released: October 16, 2009
MSRP: $19.99

Machinarium, more so than most adventure games I've played, understands its own genre enough to ignore its conventions. It understands that most adventure games, even the "classics," just aren't that good. I love Monkey Island and Sam and Max Hit the Road to death and consider the adventure genre one of my favorites, but I can't pretend that the dialogue and noninteractive story sequences, however funny, can often feel boring and uninvolving; that the endless backtrack-heavy inventory puzzles spread across dozens of different locations are confusing and not particularly rewarding to solve; that pixel hunting is an absolute pain in the ass and should be avoided at all costs.

Machinarium avoids every single one of these problems while still, somehow, feeling like an adventure game down to its very (rusty, metal) bones. Except for the pixel hunting thing.

A review like this would typically devote an early paragraph to summarizing the story, but I'm pleased to be unable to do so with Machinarium: the story is not only completely bare-bones and highly reliant on player inference (think Shadow of the Colossus), but it's told in such a gradual and mostly unobtrusive way that half the fun comes from gradually discovering exactly what the unnamed protagonist's relationship is to the rest of the world (I say mostly; from time to time the protagonist will have a thought bubble flashback to provide backstory, but these are really short and easily skippable). Suffice to say, the world of Machinarium is beautiful, haunting, charming and funny.

ere

Additionally, the entire game is completely devoid of human language. No lengthy, conversation-filled cut scenes, no too-lengthy dialogue trees to irritatedly click through -- in fact, no written words whatsoever (the drop-down menu notwithstanding). I mention this partially because it really helps the feeling of immersive otherworldliness that permeates every moment of gameplay, and partially just because it's really goddamn cool.

In regards to puzzle solving, Machinarium is as satisfyingly focused a title I've yet experienced. Rather than forcing the player to collect dozens of items, or backtrack across eight different screens just to accomplish one small task, Machinarium restricts 90% of its puzzles to single locations; even when the game world opens up around the halfway mark, the individual puzzles still feel remarkably tight.

You may enter a room with the intent of finding an item to be used in a different area, but you'll still be able to essentially solve all the puzzles in a location without leaving to get another inventory item or talk to another character. Those few areas you cannot access immediately are clearly marked, and feel less like distracting maybe-solutions for other puzzles and more like isolated reminders: "yes," the game says, "go to the greenhouse and solve an abstract lite-brite-esque puzzle, but don't forget you're also looking for a key to the arcade. Thus, it's very difficult (but not impossible -- more on that in a bit) to feel completely confused about where you need to go, what you need to do, and what tools you have at your disposal to accomplish those aims.

Even the player's movement within a location has been streamlined. Rather than allowing you to just click anywhere in the world and move there, your movement is restricted to specific hot spots. While I was initially frustrated that the game forced me to move only to predetermined points (again, if you read our preview, "frustrated" may be an understatement), I eventually understood why the folks at Amanita did it: every single hot spot includes something important that can be interacted with.  If you can stand somewhere, it's because there's something that needs to be done at that specific point in space; a lever to be pulled, a logic puzzle to be solved. 

ere

Yes, logic puzzles are as ubiquitous in the world of Machinarium as they are in Professor Layton, except they're much more elegantly integrated here; every door lock or power grid you'll come into contact with is a self-contained conundrum to solve. When I say "logic puzzles," though, I'm not speaking of the I haff tvelve metchsteek variety; we're talking balls-to-the-wall, abstract, rotate-these-three-dotted-rings-so-that-the-green-dots-are-all-resting-in-the-center, draw-this-weird-shape-without-drawing-the-same-line-twice puzzle puzzles. Though these sorts of brain teasers make up the majority of the gameplay, Machinarium is nonetheless as varied an adventure game I've yet experienced. It takes those logic puzzles and breaks them up with LucasArts-esque inventory puzzles, Myst-ian environmental manipulation, and a couple of surprising, if uninspired, arcade-style minigames.

On the whole, I found the puzzles remarkably enjoyable. As someone who typically sucks at logic problems and the like, I was surprised to find that more often than not, Machinarium's puzzles hit that adventure gaming sweet spot of being just difficult enough to get me thinking, but not so frustrating that I went scrambling for a walkthrough.

Most of the time, anyway. Thankfully, Machinarium includes a remarkably cool walkthrough feature. If you just need a general tip as to what to do next, you can get a free hint (presented via a charmingly animated thought bubble popping out of the protagonist's head).

ere

Should you need more assistance, your protagonist -- for reasons never explained -- always has a locked book in his inventory. You can open this book by playing an intentionally boring LCD shmup on the book's cover. Should you have the skill, and more importantly, the patience to complete it, the book will open and reveal a walkthrough of the entire room you're in, conveyed via an ink-and-pencil comic strip. I don't think I've ever seen a walkthrough implemented in such a remarkably clever way. Whenever you get stuck, you're forced to make a simple choice: do I want to waste time playing the not-fun game to open the spoilery book, or do I just wanna try harder? No matter what your choice, you still haven't alt+tabbed to GameFAQs; you're still in the game, immersed in its wonderful atmosphere. And even if you do open the walkthrough book, its integration with the game as a whole makes it feel less like you're a cheating little bitch and more like you're just using the tools afforded to you.

That said, I couldn't help but still get frustrated from time to time. The thought-bubble hint system is often too vague, or too specific; it either tells the player something they already know, or spoils an entire puzzle. When your only hint options range from getting potentially no help whatsoever to getting a complete spoiler, either via an overenthusiastic thought bubble hint or the locked walkthrough book, it can be hard to feel confident about your abilities as a puzzle solver. You're either stuck and helpless, or the game essentially calls you stupid by solving the puzzle for you.

Additionally, many of the items you'll need to grab from the environment are simply too hard to see at first glance. Perhaps this is just the old red-green colorblindness talking, but I spent something near an hour searching a location for a dark-colored plunger, only to find it'd been stuck to the dark-colored ceiling of a dark-colored room I'd escaped from earlier in the game. I've got nothing against asking the player to look really closely to the beautiful environments you've drawn by hand, but hell if I didn't feel the exact same pixel-hunting frustration that defined my first playthrough of Day of the Tentacle.

ere

These aren't entirely inconsiderable faults, but they should in no way dissuade you from playing a game as atmospheric, focused, and altogether clever as Machinarium. If you were interested enough in the adventure genre to hit the jump and read this review, then don't worry -- some hiccups notwithstanding, Machinarium is just plain one of the best adventure games ever made.

Go get it already.

Score: 9.0 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)



THE VERDICT

9

Machinarium - Reviewed by Anthony Burch
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.




 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Machinarium


  Oct 18

Machinarium Pocket Edition hits the iPhone

It was previously available on the iPad -- also, everything else


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Journey to Become a Jedi Knight - Jedi Outcast

Waifu Wars - The End

Hindsight Part II: Unreleased Games of the Past

Robbing Kirby of his Greatest Asset

The meaning of The Witness (Part 3 of 3)

Friday Night Fights: War Never Changes Edition

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Review (Vita)

Waifu Wars: Loyalty-Tier

The Wii U's fate is not (entirely) Nintendo's fault

Musings on Firewatch (Spoilers)

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
I can't choose simply one waifu for myself, so I've been obsessed with looking up netorare hentai. That way, I know every trick to steal all of your waifus away and keep them all to myself. It's the perfect plan! The only problem: I only have one dick. :(
Parismio avatarParismio
Aw shit, just 100 left to go til the big 9!
lewness avatarlewness
I am so late for the party. Where the hell do I get Fire Emblem Fates Special Edition
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
There you go, my season 2 vehicle. You happy Mr. Destructoid?
siddartha85 avatarsiddartha85
Just started Gravity Rush. I'm finally playing this.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Well friends, its almost time for my blog to exit the large intestine of page one into the cold, dark bowl of page two, to be flushed and forgotten. Why not throw a fap on there to ease the journey, and give it one last look before its gone?
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
Do not believe Chris' lies. Cyber Sleuth is nothing like Persona. It's all lies, I tell you!
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
They put season 2 of Young Justice on Netflix finally. Apparently, if lots of people watch it they'll consider a 3rd season. So do it now! [url]http://comicbook.com/2016/02/03/greg-weisman-teases-hope-for-young-justice-season-3/[/url]
bigboss0110 avatarbigboss0110
I heard from a little birdie that a store near my house will be getting Street Fighter V a day early. Will I get banned from PSN if I play it online that day?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
I try to hold myself to just one waifu, but games like Persona 4 and Overwatch make it so very hard.
Parismio avatarParismio
Woot! I hit 8888 comments!
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
FEAR and Resident Evil 4 were great action/horror games. It's a shame that nowadays such ideas either go one way or another. I would like to see a resurgence of that style where it's a scary/tense experience but the player has power and control.
ThrillDyl avatarThrillDyl
Hey, Dyltheman here, just telling that it is just me who changed their username. That is all, go about your day.
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
I just got into a beta (the email didn't mention NDA) for a moba on xbox one. I know what I'm doing tonight.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I just took the Pewdiepie Undertale Playthrough Challenge - I managed to get through 2mins 29sec before getting a migraine and escaping the page. Where is my trophy or Vicodin reward oddammit???
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
[img]http://i.imgur.com/5Yz281M.gif[/img]
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Also I can't even see the comments anymore, anyone else having this issue...not that I will be able to see...I'M LOCKED INSIDE A BOX OF MY OWN THOUGHTS WITH NO ROCKET LEAGUE!
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Rocket Leagues 1st Season just ended at 4PM EST. There aren't any ranked matches for right now...what am I going to do with my life?!?!
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I GOT YAKUZA 3 IN THE MAIL! Gonna emulate 1 and 2 first but this is great news
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
Dragon Quest Builders seems to be selling well in Japan. Can we have a port plz?
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -