May 31st, 2010 | By Zak
As far as point and click adventures go, Machinarium by Amanita Design is a perfect 10 in my book; you can’t get much better. The artwork, puzzles and sound devices create a unique steam punk world to click through on your quest to save Robot city. As for the story, the player takes control of robot that has been cast out from said city and must solve various puzzles to sneak back inside. Once inside, the player has to put together clues and solve puzzles to save his fem-bot and the entire metropolis from some robo-thugs and their bomb. This involves a lot of point and click trial and error and screen exploration. Honestly, I was hooked by the artwork before I even got to the first puzzle.
The gameplay of Machinarium is pretty straightforward when it comes to progression – it is a point and click adventure after all. Anybody who has played Amanita’s previous Samorost series of games will be instantly at home with Machinarium. For the most part, the sort of out-there style and basic mechanics work the same; point to a hotspot, click and let the robot do the rest. The protagonist, the robot, ventures through each level collecting various objects and “swallows” them for later use. The objects fit into a great scheme solving the ubiquitous puzzles presented throughout the game.
The earlier stages of Machinarium tend to keep the puzzles limited to a single screen, which can still stump the player for a good while. Luckily Amanita included some hints to help the us noobs along the way- myself included once or twice! A walkthrough is available (though you have to beat a mini-game first) along with these helpful little “hint bubbles.” The robot tends to have to be next to the trigger spots for the player to be able to click on them and start a sequence of events. This sometimes leads to a lot of clicking around the screen.
As the story develops, the puzzles become more complex and involved. From time to time the overall story is interrupted by mini-games that range from space invader clones to complex patterns involving different pull lever combinations and logic problems. In both cases the puzzles can often seem easier than they are. Some puzzles have clues to the solution drawn right into the scenery – so grab a note pad. For the more complex puzzles, the player will have to venture from one screen to another and return after completing missions. After a while it can seem like the routine back and forth of a typical adventure game. It might seem a little humdrum, but with the great artwork, the game flew by.
There really isn’t enough I can say about the artwork. The depth of the Machinarium world is immense and vivid. Amanita obviously took a considerable amount of time and effort to enhance and develop the world the player is transported into – and it worked. The protagonist features beautifully drawn animations which convey a great fluidity and an almost intrinsic feel to the character’s robotic expressions. If the robot can’t do something you ask it to, it will let you know. Really, no detail was overlooked and I was pleasantly amused by the robotic rats, cats and owls as well as the varied and ingeniously presented robotic denizens. Working through the game was like playing a piece of beautiful and quality hand-drawn artwork. This art was topped off with great music and sound effects creating a great overall experience.
The sound effects and music in Machinarium don’t fall short either. From the sounds of dripping water to the clanks of the mechanical widgets, the sound effects were ingenious. Again I came to the conclusion that no detail was overlooked. The soundtrack has the endearing ability to make the Machinarium world all that much more real to the player. Amanita’s combination of sound and music delivers a coherent and uniform world. You have to ask if it could have been any other way. It’s definitely something that can make or break a game, in this case – it makes it.
The only downside I could really find with the game is the replay value. The game is short enough to be completed in one sitting (a four to eight hour sitting), though it is longer than the previous Samorost titles. The game can be saved at anytime and since the game is flash based, reload time is mercifully fast. The story is self contained, so once you complete all the puzzles and objectives the game is over and there really isn’t much more to do. This doesn’t lend itself well to replay value. However, if you’re like me you’ll visit Machinarium again just for the aesthetics.