Mr. Exposition reviews: Machinarium

Point-and-click adventure genre is not in it's best times right now, and you may think no-one makes 2D adventures anymore. But on October 16, Machinarium appeared on Steam and other digital distribution networks. The genre is not dead - it's just playing possum for the lulz.

Machinarium was made by Amanita Design - a small Czech independent studio led by Jakub Dvorsky, author of Samorost duology. They specialize in point-and-click adventures, and their art direction is something to be admired.

The aesthetic

If you thought Call of Duty or Batman: Arkham Asylum had gritty visuals, think again. The city of Machinarium is brown. Machinarium is rusty. Machinarium is soaked in oil. Machinarium is covered in moss. Machinarium is engulfed in smog. And it's beautiful in it's desolation. It will probably remind you of Fallout and Courage The Cowardly Dog. All the retrofuturism gives me a big architectural stiffy, and carries some distinct Soviet-esque themes. Love it or hate it - i strongly doubt there is a middleground in this case. But you'll probably pick the first option.

The characters

The main character of this game is Johan, a cutesy little robot. Poor fellow got broken into pieces and thrown out of the city. He swiftly pulls himself back toghether, and must confront the Black Cap Brotherhood (who are really just three lazy douchebags in black hats) back in the city. Said jerks in black hats also kidnapped his girlfriend, so there's also a damsel in distress. As you may have already guessed, all characters in this game are robots - some of them pretty strange in form and function. You will encounter a mechanical street band, a cat made of metal, and a sentient ventilator, for starters. There's no actual dialogue in Machinarium - characters talk via speech bubbles displaying black-and-white animations to convey what characters speak about.

The gameplay

Machinarium is a classic point-and-click quest with loads of pixel-hunting. As an added bonus of being a robot, Johan can extend to reach high places, or shrink to pass in tight spaces. Finding active objects can be hard sometimes, but most of the time they are obvious. You'll need pretty insane logic in some places, but in others solution is blatant. And oh - "noughts-and-crosses" minigame is very, very hard. But you can actually beat it, so you shouldn't give up on it. In case you have absolutely no idea what to do, you can get a general direction - and if you get hopelessly stuck, you can play a minigame to see correct solution. But i, personally, only used it once or twice - in case of completely impenetrable puzzles. So puzzles are rather solid overall.

The music

Only reason i'm drawing your attention to Machinarium's soundtrack is because these tunes are among the best i ever heard in a game. Tomas Dvorak did an outstanding job - listening to his music is like having your mind massaged by an attractive supermodel made of softest pillows in the world. I was extremely lucky in that Russian retail version comes with an official soundtrack CD (people who published the game here were much, much smarter than usual) - but you can still buy said CD off the Internet.

The drawbacks

Not too many. Machinarium is a small project - so it's a bit short. If you want to solve all the puzzles by yourself, without using the solution, completing the game is not going to be easy. And as i said, awesomeness of those visuals can be subjective.

Recommendation: if you like adventures and the art style, buy it. NOW. If you don't like adventures, but like the art style, give it a try. If you like adventure games, but did not like the art style, consider buying it anyways. If you like neither adventures nor this art style... well then, tough luck.

Credit for providing images (as in, letting me borrow them) goes to Moddb. Amanita Design website is here. My other review is here.

First rule of Machinarium: you don't talk about Machinarium. If Lombaxes ever find out...

I always liked point-and-click adventures. I'll probably check if out some time soon, if the mighty wallet allows it, anyways.

Kollega:

First rule of Machinarium: you don't talk about Machinarium. If Lombaxes ever find out...

Heh.
How did I know ypu'd put something like that in?

Anyway, that art style is fantastic.
There just look like drawings! I haven't seen that pulled off very many times.

Well-written review, it wasn't too long or too short and the paragraphs are neatly organized. Great job.

I appreciate it when a game goes out of it's way to have a unique art style instead of going down the dead-end road of photorealism.

D4zZ:

Use the "locked journal" minigame if you get hopelessly stuck. It's always there.

And watch on which rail you place that triangle thing.

This is a beautiful, engaging and ingenious adventure game.

But the tic-tac-toe bit is bullshit.

I hate board games and the very fact that I spent close to an hour trying to play one tells a lot about how much I liked Machinarium.

But to me, making the game having a huge genre shift midway through is just a terrible design decision.

I'm gonna cool down and give it a few last tries later in the day, just so I can continue playing the actual Machinarium game, not some f*cking board game.

I found it sometimes difficult to connect with the line of thought, to get behind what I'm supposed to do. And sometimes when there was the right basic idea, it could be hard to just get it right. I found that there were a little bit too many minigames, but it all fit well into the aesthetic and style of the game. The "steampunk" (if thats correct) and machine world clearly gives the perfect context for such a puzzle game. With lots of "this is what life is like" symbolism and beautiful detail this becomes a work of art, and the atmosphere is one of those "never want to miss again" experiences like only special movies, books, music, games possess.

But I was often VEERY frustrated and upset, to be honest. And it's really small. In scope it might be the equivalent of single island in a Monkey Island game.

Here is one of the best pieces of the soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvDvawzJ3s8

 

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