Machinarium (PC, Playstation Vita, PS3, IPad, and Android)

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Introduction

The game opens with a city in the background that looks like the Emerald Palace was made of junk. A flying machine drops its payload of refuse into a pile unceremoniously. One of these “scrap” pieces is our eager hero. He’s a little worse for wear but he’s got a mission to do and that means getting back into the city — which won’t be easy, I guess he left his ID in his other pants’ pocket. Walk, adjust your height, and solve puzzles to find out why our little robot friend got dumped from his home and why he needs to get back in.

History

Machinarium was created by Amanita Design which is a group of seven Czechs who like to make point and click adventures. The game was originally released on PC but Amanita wanted to expand to other platforms. Machinarium was set to be released on Microsoft’s XBox Live arcade but after some sort of debacle Amanita decided to ditch Microsoft and turn to Sony instead.

Machinarium is one of the most pirated games in history. Amanita sent out a survey asking how many people had purchased the game. The data they got back suggested that only 15% of people who had played it actually purchased the game. At this point Amanita kindly asked pirates to pay for the game and incentivized it by lowering the price to $5 but it wasn’t very successful. What really bothers me is that Amanita design has three free similar games on their website but some people weren’t willing to dish out pocket change for one.

Machinarium was released on October 16th 2009. It’s competition was Borderlands (PS3, XBox 360), Brutal Legend (PS3, XBox 360), and Eufloria (PC).

Nostalgia

The first time I saw this game was as a Demo that a friend was playing. I saw it’s Oddworldesque design and was enchanted. I wanted to know what this world of machines was, how it worked, and how it came to be. I also wanted to know the story of the little robot he was controlling. Whether he was actually remotely controlling it or was just a player to its character ie. was there a human controlling the robot in the context of the game? I wouldn’t end up playing it until 2011 but it was always there in the back of my head. I would ask people what they remembered about that point and click adventure game with the robot but no one could remember what I was talking about.

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And then I got to see the scrap city for what it was… kinda run down but brimming with character.

Gameplay

The game is a point and click adventure that focuses on puzzle solving. So you’ll be picking things up and rubbing them on other things to try to get something to work to open a door or something. Our little robot friend here has a hollow torso so he’s always got room to put things in himself– although I’m now confused to how he’s supposed to function.

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BTW, there are dolls of this guy available for purchase and they’re also hollow.

If you get a little lost you can ask the robot for a vague idea of what he’s trying to do. These hints, as well as the rest of the “dialogue” in the game, are expressed through animated thought bubbles– or thought bubbles of animation. If the puzzle is a really stumping you then you can look up a walkthrough or use the walkthrough that’s in the game. There’s a notebook in the upper right hand corner that has drawings of solutions to every puzzle in the game. If that sounds cheap then I should mention the Galaga-esqu lock that holds the notebook shut.

Our little robot does have one useful ability, he can alter his height. He can stretch his torso of holding to grow short or tall. That being said, he can’t walk as fast as his normal height when he’s tall or short. Sometimes speed is an important factor and if that’s the case then you’re gonna want this guy to be in the best running shape by returning his torso shape to normal.

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It’s a really useful ability… it’s also fucking adorable.

The Gush

The art design of this game is fucking beautiful. The city feels alive with colorful robots living out their robot existences. It’s cute and interesting to try and figure out how this robot city differs and is similar to our own.

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I don’t know what’s in that tower but I wanna live in it.

The music is marvelously atmospheric. Each area has its own music that creates an ambiance that fades into the background when you’re solving a puzzle and then comes forward again when it’s time to travel. Well, the music for the most intense puzzle is much more in-your-face but I thought it was appropriate for the situation.

Even the most fiendish puzzle in this game can be brute forced. If you don’t know the answer and are too proud to look it up then you can just try to do everything possible until it works. That being said the puzzles are pretty easy to get the idea of, they’re sometimes just difficult to execute.

All the dialogue is communicated through the pencil animations in voice bubbles. There isn’t a single word of spoken dialogue and I think that’s super cool. It conveys the plot so well, I never felt like I was lost.

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The Kvetch

Sometimes it’s unclear what the robot is capable of. Sometimes he can jump higher or farther than I thought he would be able to. Sometimes he could pick something up or move something that I didn’t think he was strong enough to move. Those are just sort of pitfalls that go along with a game about robots, I guess.

Every puzzle game has “That Fucking Puzzle” and Machinarium is no exception. I guarantee that one of the puzzles in this game will be “That Fucking Puzzle” for you. Mine looks something like this.

pipe-puzzle

the goal is to shut off water to the first, third, fourth, and last valves as marked at the top. You accomplish this by fastening three wrenches to the pipes at the plus looking parts. It’s harder than it looks.

The Verdict

I think this game is awesome. I’ve had nothing but a good time with it. You can get it at Amanita Design’s website, http://amanita-design.net/ or by checking it out on Steam. I found it to be super fun and really interesting. It’s got solid art, music, puzzles, and story. It’s all good here.

Next Week: Borderlands

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