It’s not often I give PC games a shot, but when I do they’re generally well worth my time. Amanita Designs’ latest flash based game, Machinarium, is probably one of the best PC games I’ve played to date. The small Czech studio has managed to create a stunning world which is devoid of any humans. You play as a robot that’s been cast out of his society that is looking for a way back in, to find his missing girlfriend in a society that is crumbling under the strain of an oppressive regime. All of this is told through animations as the story progresses because there’s no actual dialogue in the game.
Since the world is composed entirely of robots, from robotic bartenders, musicians and even cats, there’s no spoken dialogue between the characters. This really helps set the feeling of the game, with an immersible otherworldiness that permeates throughout. It really feels like you’re in another world, one with a steampunk feel to it.
Machinarium is a puzzle solving game that is for the most part compartmentalized. It doesn’t make you collect items for future use, or have you backtrack to collect a different item. The great majority of the game has you solving the puzzle within the particular level using items found in that level. Even the player’s movement within a location has been streamlined. You’re also restricted to specific spots within the game, instead of having a free roaming game. It helps focus the story and the gameplay, and makes it better by doing so.
The puzzles in Machinarium hit the sweet spot of being just difficult enough to get you thinking, yet easy enough that you won’t get frustrated. If you do have trouble, there’s the nifty tip tool which will give you one hint for the level on how to achieve your goal. If you still can’t figure it out, your character has access to a locked book that will give you step by step instructions on how to solve the level. You can open the book by playing an a little side game featured on the book’s cover. It’s a rather easy game, but you have to play it every time you want to access the book. Once opened, the book will convey, via an ink-and-pencil comic strip, the exact steps you must take to compete the level.
While the story keeps you engaged, it’s the visuals that will really draw you in. Machinarium has an absolutely gorgeous art style, with hand-drawn characters and detailed backgrounds that will keep you staring at it for hours. The various robots all have distinct features, giving the world a unique and imaginative look. The character animations are fluid and feels more like an interactive movie than a point and click puzzle game.
Overall, Machinarium is one of the best puzzle action games you will ever play. Gorgeous visuals and an engaging story compliment challenging puzzles. Available for the Mac and Windows computers, Machinarium sets a high standard for independent game studios.