Machinarium is a delightful tale of a small robot trying to make his way through a mysterious and gargantuan steampunk city teeming with a variety of other robots. The atmosphere created by a robot filled population really gives a sense of excitement when exploring and interacting with such a strange and unknown world and each new robot has a unique personality that helps you relate to the plights of each and every one of them. Our unnamed hero wakes up in pieces in a scrap yard and after reassembling himself he makes his way in to the big city. The story here is told through our hero’s thought bubbles as you progress without revealing too much. In fact, it is kept to so simple that you never find out the names of any of the robots in the entire game. Instead you grow to recognise key characters by their appearance (“The Policeman”, “The Fat One”, etc.). I don’t want to delve in to the story because it is much more exciting to enter with a fresh mind.
Machinarium plays like many other point and click games. Pick up items, use items on parts of the world, then proceed to next area of the game. The puzzles in this game can be extremely tricky and have you scratching your head time and time again. Thankfully the game only allows you to interact with the environment in your close vicinity. This stops the need for wildly clicking all over the screen hoping for something to happen and makes you stop and think ‘where can I go?’ To mix this up, you can grab the head of the hero and lift it up and down to change his height allowing you to grab levers just out of reach or squeeze in to tiny holes. My one complaint is that if you notice something you want to interact with across the room, for example a key hole, you have to go up to it before you can select your key and use it, despite knowing that you are meant to interact with the puzzle in that manner. A small gripe, but I made that mistake a few times too often.
One thing which makes Machinarium stand out from other point and click games is how the entire world has been hand-painted. The towering buildings which surround you, glowing signs, robots playing musical instruments along with everything else looks like it has been taken out of a story book and painted around you. I would stop and just absorb the beauty of every room I entered. Without a doubt Machinarium is one of the prettiest games to date.
With a surprising lack of any form of dialogue within the game, Machinarium makes up for this with fantastic uses of sound effects and its musical score. When interacting with a poor robot which has had its drum stolen from him he makes muffled “mhhm hmm murh” sounds as a little thought bubble plays out the events of how his drum was stolen. The musical score ranges from ambient noises to a wrench-bot dancing to some soft dubstep.
Although being a point and click adventure game is the true nature of Machinarium, there are a lot of puzzles and minigames which make up blockades in your journey. Without spoiling too much, you’ll be an arcade playing Space Invaders, creating shapes out of lightbulbs, playing connect five with a man in a pub, disarming a bomb and playing a new form of the classic game “Lights Out”. There is a vast variety of mind-bending puzzles which all help pace the game smoothly.
At times I found that the game was a little bit too obscure and difficult; specifically the section to do with a thieving bird. Thankfully the game has a built in hint system which offers one hint for every room. If you still have trouble then the game has unlock-able walkthroughs in-game which can be opened after completing a tiny side-scrolling mini-game; a much nicer way to cheat than to look online for a guide.
Machinarium may not be the longest game in the world, only taking me about 5 hours to finish, but it is such a unique title that it shouldn’t be missed. If you are a fan of point and click games or puzzle games than I highly recommend you pick this one up.