At first glance, Machinarium is everything that people who hate adventure games criticise about the genre. Its puzzles are long and often obtuse, its point and click gameplay ill suited to a controller, and it sometimes devolves into a pixel hunt. But, if you’re willing to overlook the game’s familiar genre trappings, you’ll find an experience in Machinarium that you soon won’t forget.
Playing as a robot called Josef, you find yourself dumped on a scrapheap with little but a seemingly Mary Poppins-esque stomach to carry your items in. Once you’ve reassembled yourself, you set off for the city to rescue your robot girlfriend, and perhaps save the whole city in the process. The plot is wonderfully simple and told without any dialogue at all, the game’s exposition preferring to be shown rather than spoken. The occasional thought balloon will appear showing Josef’s feelings a the time, but Machinarium does a lot of exposition through its environment and wonderfully expressive characters. The game really is beautiful in motion, with every nook and cranny of the city drawn impeccably and filled with life, so to speak. The sound is equally wonderful, with a beautiful score and various environmental effects serving to enhance the game to an exceptional degree. With the right sound system behind it, Machinarium provides an eerily soothing soundscape.
Gameplay-wise, Machinarium is more akin to a mixture of Professor Layton and Monkey Island than a traditional adventure game. While you will find yourself traversing the game’s world with a point and click interface, you’ll find yourself playing a game of Tic Tac Toe, solving shape based puzzles, and even playing a low-fi version of space invaders on your travels. The game can’t escape some of the trappings of the genre though, and you can expect to carry around a bunch of items in your inventory, and when worst comes to worst, attempt to combine every single one of them in hopes of finding the answer to a particularly taxing puzzle. These moments in Machinarium are relatively few and far between though, with the actual brain teasers taking up the vast majority of the gameplay. They occasionally frustrate, but when you solve them its absolutely fantastic.
Machinarium is certainly not for everybody, but those who find themselves inexorably drawn to Adventure Games will find that there’s a lot to love in it. It won’t convince people who aren’t fans of this style of game to dive right in, but they might just find themselves unable to take their eyes off it either way. I’m sure they’ll offer helpful advice even if they watch you play it.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Astounding art and animation
- Wonderful puzzles and brain teasers
- Story, while simple, is told beautifully
What I Dislike:
- Point and click on a controller, though the problems are somewhat remedied with magnetic hotspots
- Art makes it tricky to see what can and can't be interacted with
- How terrible I am at Tic Tac Toe