Review: Machinarium

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Review: Machinarium

Machinarium is great to look at, but it's no fun to play.

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Shame, the premise sounds interesting.

Still one of the best "art-games" I've ever bought. But it does have some flaws that are impossible to ignore.

Overall, I thought it was worth it for the art. But as a "game" I've played a HELL of a lot better.

In short: I agree with your review.

Aww, shame. :(
I like this kind of games. I was hoping for a good review. Can't win all of them. :s

sunami88:

Overall, I thought it was worth it for the art. But as a "game" I've played a HELL of a lot better

Ther "art" in a game is called "gameplay".

Anyway, yeah, I've been dancing around Machinarium for a while but, like Axel & Pixel, it seems like the kind of game that gets praise for its looks and its arthouse ambitions than for its merit as a game. Which is no guarantee that it's going to be a bad game, either.

Man, that picture in the article there brings me right back to those old Planescape Campaign Setting illustrations. Good times.

Too bad the game is no good, then.

Aedes:
Aww, shame. :(
I like this kind of games. I was hoping for a good review. Can't win all of them. :s

Aye, Ah well. At least a demo to toy with!

I still like it. To be honest, I thought the premise was never that important. Questions like "Why am I rescuing this person? Who is it?" etc. never bothered me much.

Still, they did much better game-playing wise with the Samorost games. That clock thing WAS annoying.

Noelveiga:

Ther "art" in a game is called "gameplay".

Anyway, yeah, I've been dancing around Machinarium for a while but, like Axel & Pixel, it seems like the kind of game that gets praise for its looks and its arthouse ambitions than for its merit as a game. Which is no guarantee that it's going to be a bad game, either.

Silly me, I thought the art in this game was the stunning backgrounds and genuinely amazing/twisted character designs. And that the gameplay was clicking around solving puzzles.

But again, silly me :P. Don't misunderstand me though, this was totally worth the purchase just to see and experience the world.

sunami88:

Silly me, I thought the art in this game was the stunning backgrounds and genuinely amazing/twisted character designs. And that the gameplay was clicking around solving puzzles.

But again, silly me :P. Don't misunderstand me though, this was totally worth the purchase just to see and experience the world.

No, no, no.

See, that's the artwork in the game, as there is artwork in a comic book, but just as the comic book is a narrative form of expression, games are an interactive form of expression. If the gameplay doesn't make you feel something, there is no videogame-as-art. It may be art as an interactive painting or video exhibition, but not art as a videogame.

Of course, the visuals will help, just like the energy of a live concert helps deliver the music, but you'll agree that the live performance isn't the art in the music, but rather the composition and execution of the piece. Otherwise, the concert would be a live happening or theater session that happens to be set to music.

Have you ever had a game that you really, really wanted to like, but just couldn't?

I loved every pixel of that game, only thing bad about it is the fact that it is so damn short!

As for people saying its gameplay and puzzles were not as good, I actually loved the fact that most of the puzzles were not clear after the first glance at them. I actually hate this easy stuff in modern games, makes puzzles feel like annoyance more than anything.

That game actually looked good. Sounds pretty bad after reading the review though.

Noelveiga:
No, no, no.

See, that's the artwork in the game, as there is artwork in a comic book, but just as the comic book is a narrative form of expression, games are an interactive form of expression. If the gameplay doesn't make you feel something, there is no videogame-as-art. It may be art as an interactive painting or video exhibition, but not art as a videogame.

Of course, the visuals will help, just like the energy of a live concert helps deliver the music, but you'll agree that the live performance isn't the art in the music, but rather the composition and execution of the piece. Otherwise, the concert would be a live happening or theater session that happens to be set to music.

I care to disagree, but see where you're coming from. In my opinion, art can add to the overall gameplay experience, but when taken as separate entities the act of pointing and clicking in this game is not very good, or very fun. Clicking around in the environments is, however. Hence why I think the art is fantastic; but the gameplay isn't.

Hopefully I got the point of your post. I won't lie, it was a bit over my head.

I think this reviewer needs to learn some patience.

I completely agree with every aspect of this review, and I'd even go so far as to say that people who make games like these have missed the point of gaming entirely.

Completely disagree with this review. Perhaps the best game I played last year. The puzzles weren't easy or intuitive but maybe I'm a masochist. I enjoyed it greatly. It hearkens back to the days of the Golden Age of Adventure games (most of you weren't even born I wager). The atmosphere and artistry were simply delightful. I actually liked not knowing exactly what was going on: it lent an air of mystery and left some of the interpretation of this world up to the player. It also wasn't weighed down with ceaseless dialog like the Sam and Max games. A true palate cleanser.

I wouldn't admonish anyone for not liking this game however: as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.

I liked Machinarium a lot. Then again, I had an online strategy guide helping me. Still, it's a sight more appealing than many games that are easier to play these days.

HerrShmidt:
I actually liked not knowing exactly what was going on: it lent an air of mystery and left some of the interpretation of this world up to the player.

Very much agreed. It also fit in well with the art style, which greatly reminds me of Dr. Seuss' nonsensical buildings.

Sounds a lot like the movie "9". Great visuals but...the rest leaves something to be desired.

I do not agree with this review, seems like the reviewer just wanted to finish all the puzzles and get it over with rather than to think about the subtle backstory.

Also, it was no "guard" in the tower that came down for no reason. If you care to play with the clock longer, you'll realize that there are more combinations. There is one for the Jew in the tower, one for the fanatic and one for the Islam person hiding above the tower clock. It shows that there are religions in this imaginary world of machines...

I have to disagree,

While the puzzles may be obtuse, they are never cheap or illogical and they often make sense during or after the action.

Some of the harder portions would be the mini-games involved in solving a puzzle, like Tic Tac Toe vs the AI or tracing the lines.

To solve the problem of objects you can choose, the robot can only stand on certain locations and reach objects in a circle around him when he's short/normal/tall. That reduces the grabbable items to 3 small circles per area. That was the intention of the design.

And the premise doesn't matter, it's up to your imagination

Plus there are hints in every page telling a little story with it

This review makes me think a bit. For the most part I agree with what it says, having myself played Machinarium, but I take exception at the tone. I think this dichotomy between art (or presentation) and gameplay is unjustified.

I think that to say that it's a game with great art ruined by poor gameplay, or a game with poor gameplay saved by great art, is not the best way of looking at it. That's treating them too differently. If we were talking about a game meant to be Prince of Persia or Castlevania, yes, the gameplay, that is, the mechanics of the game, are far and away the most important thing. But they're less important with Machinarium. I know, I know, gameplay > all, but maybe not.

Suppose we have a scale, on the one end of which are things that literally have no gameplay (a movie, a book), and on the other are games that are almost wholly gameplay (pure puzzle games, storyless shooters, "versus" fighting games). On the latter side, poor gameplay is damning; nothing could save Street Fighter if the controls were clunky, the action poorly timed. Most games are weighted to that end, but I think Machinarium is one that falls closer to the middle; the artwork and music (which cannot be praised enough; if you have any love for Wall-E, you'll love this protagonist) are really the main substance of the game.

It reminds me of playing Riven. While Myst really is pretty flawed, and not very interesting looking now that the novelty of 3D CGI has worn off, Riven is still a very beautiful and complete game. I found when I played it, though, that if I played it as a game, the way I play other games, it was insufferable; there was no action. I had to walk around a lot. The game did not give me information, but left me to find it myself. I enjoyed the game when I played as... something else. I don't have a precise word to use, but ultimately something between a game and a book. That is to say, Riven, despite being a fully-realized work, is less of a game than other games are, and so your input, the player's part, is less important than it is in other games. Riven is as much about looking and seeing as it is about playing and interacting.

I'd say the same of Machinarium. And for most point-and-clicks, actually. Though many point-and-clicks do manage to ruin themselves with poor gameplay, because many point-and-clicks are ridiculously difficult for anyone not a fanatic. Machinarium, I felt, did alright. It skirted the edges, but ultimately, accounting for the built-in hints, I never got stuck on one screen for more than a few minutes; though there was a bit of pixel-hunting, I really felt the whole time that the game was holding my hand.

I think the reviewer couldn't solve the puzzles without resorting to the walkthrough section. I think that shoot-em -up thing is a great idea since it stops you looking at the walkthrough the second you get stuck. I will admit that there are one or 2 tedious puzzles but overall its good fun IF you like point and click adventures.

the problem with this review is that it sounds like the reviewer doesnt really like point and click games, if you dont then machinarium wont change your mind

I couldn't disagree more. The game's design is excellent and clearly very well thought out. Maybe you just don't play puzzle games all that often? They were all logical to me.

@ Suskie: "People who make games like this have missed the point of gaming entirely?" Are you serious? There's a whole GENRE of games like this. I don't like sports games and don't play them. But just because I don't like them I don't go around saying people who make sports games have missed the point of gaming. Seriously.

I disagree with almost everything about this review. Yes turning the clock hands is a bit of a pain but pixel hunting, not knowing what is going on, etc is not something that i had any problem with. I mean:

"For example, there is no way of distinguishing what might be a useful item"
I take it you mean "no way to highlight useable items so you don't have to bother looking" because once you've talked to the robots you know what sort of things you need and it's then just a matter of looking for them. Need the buttons on the saxaphone, look around and you see them on the game board for example. I never had to pixel hunt, the only item i had problems with was the fly paper as i wasn't sure what it was.

"I wasn't entirely sure whether the girl robot depicted in the protagonist's memories was supposed to be his girlfriend or his sister or just a friend"
Does it matter? It's a female robot he cares about and the game gets that across just fine, the exact relation to the main character does not matter any more than the age of your character does.

"getting the right time makes a guard come out of his tower so you can head up and have a look. Could I tell you why this happens? No, it just does."
Eh? There's symbols on the wall that tell you at what time each robot goes into the church and it's rather obvious that you need to get into the control tower.

"Machinarium's walkthrough has to get a special mention as possibly the least useful example of a walkthrough I've ever seen. Like the hint function, it will only show you the walkthrough for the particular screen that you're on"
How many games have in-game walkthroughs of any kind? Machinarium has a method to get a bit of help on each screen. If you need more help than that you can look it up on the internet like you have to do in most games. I don't see how a game not have an in-depth walkthrough is a negative.

"In fact, it might be a good idea to take notes anyway, because the game forces you to play an absolutely dire shoot-em-up each and every time you want to check a page."
It's an incredibly easy shooter that is there do dissuade you from looking up the hint as soon as you get stuck. As for having to take notes is it really that hard to remember the solution to a simple puzzle? Not that i see what is wrong with taking notes (i had to do it in Sherlock Holmes versus Arsene Lupin due to the complexity of some of the puzzles).

Your main complaints seem to be that the game does not tell you what to do or what to pick up but since this is easily solved by talking to characters, looking and thinking i strongly disagree that this is due to poor game design but is rather due to a poor player.

Worgen:
the problem with this review is that it sounds like the reviewer doesnt really like point and click games, if you dont then machinarium wont change your mind

Well... yeah. That's the problem, i think. Machinarium's background is to be observed, not for splattering enemies against.

I cannot understand the world anymore. First people complain that games are too easy and it's always obvious what to do. When you give them a classic point-and-click adventure, they complain it's too hard and counter-intuitive.

Taum:
snip

Couldn't have said it better than this.
Reviews should be written by people who are familiar with the topic genre at least, if that is not the case they are misleading to others who will miss out on a great game as a result.
There is a demo for Machinarium, if you are interested in it, play it, don't go by this review.

Kollega:
Well... yeah. That's the problem, i think. Machinarium's background is to be observed, not for splattering enemies against.

I cannot understand the world anymore. First people complain that games are too easy and it's always obvious what to do. When you give them a classic point-and-click adventure, they complain it's too hard and counter-intuitive.

Quotes Yahtzee: Fans are....
Yeah, not really appropriate for this case, but that's the first thing that came to my mind.

I really disagree with this review. It just strikes me as lazy in every respect. Many of the comments of hte reviewer show that they approached the game not as something to think about, which strikes me as rather silly considering it's a puzzle game.

They were even too lazy to check the spelling of the previous games by the same studio (they're called SamOrost, not SamArost.
Very disappointing, I expect better from this site.

osmosisch:

They were even too lazy to check the spelling of the previous games by the same studio (they're called SamOrost, not SamArost.

Not laziness, a typo. Thanks for picking it up.

The plot sounds somewhat similar to Wall.E, robot left to his own devices amongst scrap and eventually goes on a mission to get with the hot robo-chick.

well, i must say i agree on some of it, but i just noticed it now, i was so completely blown off my feats and sucked into the game that i never noticed these things, it did annoy the shit out of me towards the end especially with the very last puzzle which where an "music" puzzle, you had to remember a series of almost identical sounding notes and then go to another room to press them in, i used the in game guide book on most screens.

but, it is beautiful and the music is fantastic, i actually downloaded the soundtrack "illegally" (only available in the Russian boxed version) and the story and characters, while simple, all fitted right in there in all the beauty and kept me interested, its only 5-6 hours long but it stayed with me for months, i still listen to the soundtrack once in awhile and have some of the artwork as my desktop background, the gameplay maybe is a bit primitive and rusty but it fits in.

i agree that you shouldn't buy it for the puzzles and the gameplay, but you should buy it, its cheaper and easier than walking on the great wall, riding true the ruins of ancient Greece, hiking on snow filled mountains or go to Greenland and see the northern lights, and its more breath taking ,awe inspiring and memorable than all of them.

especially walking on the great wall, i was so tired, sweaty and dehydrated after walking all those stairs.

Wow, I'm sorry that review was written for all the people it might deter from playing a delightful little game. My wife and I played it together over her Christmas break, pulling chairs close so she could help direct while I pointed and clicked. The little robot and its story were so evocative that every night, an hour before bed one of us would say, "Oh! Do you want to play with our little robot friend?" He was so cute and lovable and determined and ingenious that we couldn't help but fall in love with him and worry for his plight against terrorist/bullies.

The puzzles were all satisfying and none of them were difficult enough to actually touch the hint feature (so I can't really comment on this shooter thing that's being talked about). There were so many great scenes and the way the memories played out in thought balloons was fantastic.

Perhaps a reviewer who enjoys puzzle/adventure games would have made a better choice for a reviewer. This was my favourite since Grim Fandango. Visually spectacular, fun puzzles, indelible characters, and a nice little storyline.

I agree with some of this review- item/verb visual design was hard to notice inside a screen full of steampunk gadgets, there were puzzles that were made awkward by implementation, etc.

Overall I enjoyed this game, despite getting stuck at points.

Looking into the details to suss out what was happening was a side game unto itself.
For example:
The clock puzzle mentioned in the article chimed calls to prayer depending on the time the player set. There was a Jewish robot, a Muslim robot and a robot practicing its own in-game religion. These could be discerned by the symbols next to each graffiti clock combination and the visual design of each robot.
The visual design also shows decay & chaos as themes, and that is reflected much in the way that the city and plot are setup. It made me wonder if the city was always that bad or if much of it happened recently.

Mostly in agreement with this review.

What I found to be most annoying about the game was its consistency (or lack thereof).

Essentially, it's a point-n-click, with the only things impeding your progress being various room-escape puzzles (to boil it down).

The puzzles however, feel completely random in their difficulty, and progression.

Some solutions are based on logic. Others are based on trial-and-error. Some require you to be so exact in your actions that the only way one could solve them on the first playthrough is by reading a walkthrough.

One particularly frustrating one for me was the Tic Tac Toe game you have to play. Other than simply playing it over and over and over until you finally get it right, there's no real way of passing it. I watched a solution video on youtube and still had to perform it several times due to randomization. I can't think of any other specific examples because it's been a while since I played, but they are there for sure.

Another thing that confounded me more than once were the actual items you needed to use to solve some puzzles. Since none of the items you collect are labeled, often times you will find yourself dragging them onto everything on the screen to see if they work or not. I had no idea what one object was that turned out to be a strip of fly paper. I walked back and forth through several screens of the game clicking on everything until I finally consulted a walkthrough, simply because I had no idea what the object in my inventory actually was.

Part of the problem with this game is that since you can only interact with objects close to you, you can't just mouse over the whole screen to see what is clickable. And I think the biggest issue I had with the game is that, from playing the demo, it looks like a straightforward adventure game, and then when I bought and played with the game they threw all of these really difficult puzzles at me.

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