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


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:


Hit the jump if you wanna know why.


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.


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. 


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).


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.


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.)



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 * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:

  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!

Indivisible exposes why forced diversity and its proponents keep failing

Steam Controller Review

RAE - Back in Town

Thankful it's ov

Half - Life 3 FINALLY 100% confirmed...maybe.

Surprisingly... I'm *really* enjoying Fallout 4!!

Where the Hell is Breath of Fire?

Comments of the Week - バーガーベスト, ですよね?

My Month in Games - November 2015

Cblogs of 11/28/15 - Lonely Thanksgiving, Gatchaman Crowds, and more

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Have you ever purchased a game only to regret it later and then sell it/give it away, only to even later regret selling it and wind up purchasing it again?
gajknight avatargajknight
A decadent staircase adorned in gold rises into infinite darkness. Writhing beings beyond comprehension lurk in the shadows, their mere presence encroaching on the edges of human understanding. A blood moon glows . I am losing my mind. I need more eyes...
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
We need to be implanted with microchips because I'd really like to know how much time I've spent playing different video games my entire life.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
Today's agenda: job-hunting and startup of a second playthrough of either Phantom Dust or Front Mission 4. I can't decide. I'm on a sixth-gen kick.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
If there are rainbows in Xenoblade Chronicles X, Reyn must be in it as well. You can't have a rainbow without Reyn, baby!
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
I really hope Xenoblade become it's own franchise, it has way too much potential to simply being reduced to 2 games.
Sotanaht avatarSotanaht
Touchable Holograms? When this eventually matures and hits market, almost all our regulars will vanish for weeks.
Serethyn avatarSerethyn
Xenoblade Chronicles Wii for €10? Sure, Nintendo, don't mind if I do!
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
Super Smash Bros. 4 has too much content. So much so I almost don't want a sequel. I honestly hope that NX gets a "Super Smash Bros. For NX" port rather than a new installment. It could be a GOTY edition and come with all of the DLC.
Batthink avatarBatthink
Flegma avatarFlegma
Bought my first full-priced physical 3DS game ever - New Style Boutique 2: Fashion Forward. I'll try to write a post on the previous game at some point before doing the same with NSB2.
Terry 309 avatarTerry 309
How do you guys manage to buy all these games at day 1 with such huge backlogs?
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Guys if I were to do a thing, how many of you would watch my thing because I was thinking of doing a thing but I dunno if people really like that kinda thing so I just wanted to know if you liked that thing because I'm thinking of doing a thing, you know?
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
Bayonetta 2 is 40% off in the EU Nintendo eShop today. If you have a WiiU and don't have this game you are a horrible person and I want nothing to do with you. You can amend your errors by buying it. Xenoblade Wii is also 50% off as well.
El Dango avatarEl Dango
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Protag shipping is best shipping. [img][/img]
El Dango avatarEl Dango
My dreams are really weird and scary, so I hope it's okay if I let them be dreams.
Fenriff avatarFenriff
Finally played the last two Shantae games. Risky's Revenge wasn't bad, but Pirate's Curse was damn good.
Flegma avatarFlegma
Memo to self: spend your time cleaning before wasting ten or so hours on a cblog you'll end up just scrapping because you're incompetent and incapable of writing on the subject.
Is there an occupation out there for people who want to give up and not worry about shit for a while until they can recompose themselves before going back into society?
more quickposts



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 -