Machinarium, developed and self-published by Czech company Amanita Games, is a point-and-click game about a robot named Josef as he tries to save his beloved city from the Black Cap Brotherhood. The game originally released in 2009 for PCs but has since made its way to mobile platforms and PlayStation Network for PS3, PS Vita, and now for the PS4. During the year of its release, it garnered massive support and more than a handful of awards and nominations for its art design, soundtrack, and overall gameplay and story. You can buy the game on Steam or PlayStation Store for $9.99.
You play as a robot named Josef who, in the opening scene of the game, is dumped into the scrapyard by a hot air balloon looking machine. His arm, torso, and legs separated, and with the help of a small critter on the ground, you assemble yourself back together. Progressing back towards the city, and past the guards, your adventure begins. It's not long after entering that you stumble across the evil plan of the Black Cap Brotherhood to blow up and destroy the cities main structure; the tower. You won't find narrations or texts but instead will experience the story through character interactions and through bubbles over characters heads allowing you to piece together their thoughts, past story events, or other things from meaningful depictions.
Point-and-click games typically follow the same gameplay designs while always attempting to make themselves stand out from the rest in one way or another. This indie title does a great job at being a little different regardless of the category in a discussion. You still use your cursor to point around the screen, telling Josef where you need him to walk, and things that can be grabbed will be highlighted with an indicating icon. But the uniqueness comes with Josef himself; as a robot, he is able to extend his torso to reach heights, condense his body down to reach under objects or traverse small areas, extend his arms, or to store items by using himself as a metal container. The way everything just flows is amazing and constantly had me excited to see how he uses himself during each of the coming puzzles.
And speaking of puzzles, they are incredibly difficult at times. Not difficult in the way that they are unsolvable or that they require you to look up a guide, but just in general difficult. In the off chance, you are completely stuck, though, there is a hint system implemented into the game. The first hint will depict a general idea of the solution but won't give away how exactly to solve it. If it still seems too daunting of a puzzle, you can take on a secondary hint-like system where you are challenged at a short mini-game that, upon completing, will give you a detailed guide how to solve. You won't see everything you need right away, it'll take some time clicking around before you find the key items needed.
For example (and only the second small puzzle, but if you wish to avoid it as a spoiler, skip to the next paragraph), in the scene right after the scrap yard, you'll attempt to cross a guarded bridge by impersonating the guards. The key item needed is a blue cone shaped hat with a glowing light on the top. So you'll grab one of the traffic cones laying nearby, find some blue paint, mix it into the barrel of white paint, dip the cone in the barrel, climb a ladder underneath a street lamp pole where you remove pegs from below to the top so that you can continue climbing, extend up to grab the lightbulb out, go into your inventory to combine it all, put the new hat on, and ring the bell for the drawbridge to be let down.
That may sound complicated, or maybe even incredibly simplified depending on your experience with the genre, but I'm sure you can get the gist of it all. These steps are not easy to see at first glance, and definitely not easy to predict. It took me a little clicking around, collecting the parts, and looking at my inventory before things started to click (pun intended). These puzzles will take some thought and imagination to complete (and some time to stumble across the solutions), and you won't find two alike; each one takes something new regarding creativity and problem solving. An added appeal to this all is how the environment and characters work around you. One time I was crouched down extending my robotic arm through small holes, stretching across rooms with fellow robots inside, and they acted frightened at the sight. Small attention to details everywhere immerses you into what is going on.
Sound and Graphics
The music used is very relevant to the game and supports the elegant overall design. It has a deep robotic/futuristic tone, and rightfully so has earned a lot of praise since its original release. Nothing ever felt overused or even over consuming of the experience itself. You'll hear a lot of subtle sound effects from the metals clunking, robotic twists and smashing, and little-detailed effects for anything moving. It all makes sense and has a purpose for its implementation; when you hear a shuffling of an insect's feet or a piece of the environment shifting, you can easily identify the source on a screen, ultimately avoiding a clutter of audio.
The world of Machinarium is filled with natural-toned settings that are anything but natural. The oddly futuristic yet beaten down environments are unique in design and depiction. There's a lot of depth to everything; you'll find just as much detail in the backgrounds as you will the foregrounds of playable areas. The characters and environment move and react to the things around them when needed to allowing for it to feel less of a point-and-click picture adventure, and more of an actual living world. I found very little issues regarding performance (arguably none at all). Everything was incredibly smooth and fluid in motion.
The indie title is by no means a recent one, but you wouldn't be able to tell that unless someone had told you. It plays just as beautifully as anything releasing today and provides an enjoyable atmosphere for many to find appealing. The art and soundtrack bring the game to life, eagerly asking for you to experience its uniqueness. The characters all have a special personality, and even if they don't have voices, the thought bubbles with sketched depictions help build a significant impression. Visiting the game and all it has to offer is well worth the time and the price, especially if found on sale, and should be on everyone's radar for consideration at some point.
|+ Art Design||– May cause clicking rage during some puzzles|
|+ Intelligent and meaningful gameplay|
|+ Challenging puzzles|
|+ Great Soundtrack|