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publisher: Amanita Design
developer: Amanita Design
PIV 1800, 1GB RAM, 250MB HDD
|ESRB rating: E10+
release date: Oct 16, 09
|» All About Machinarium on ActionTrip|
Every once in a while, we prefer turning our heads away from bloated, big-budget shooters, flashy sequels and other triple-A releases that continually overwhelm us (before you say it, no, we don't spend the extra time to level our WoW characters). What we do is pause to appreciate smaller, more modest projects, frequently emerging from the creative minds of independent game developers. This year we thought we'd focus on the world of Machinarium and the mysterious characters and puzzles hidden throughout its imaginative setting.
Created by an Amanita Design, Machinarium is actually the work of seven Czech developers, who - word has it -- financed the project with their own savings, with the game's marketing budget being a total of $1,000. It was a slow, three-year development process, but they did manage to wrap things up and deliver quite an unusual retro style point-and-click adventure game. Of course, when I write "unusual," I don't mean it's a bad thing. The art style in this game is certainly uncanny, there's no doubt about that. On the other hand, it brings a breath of fresh air to a gaming scene flooded with tacky, stale and soulless artwork. For that matter, it's no small feat the game received the prize for "Excellence in Visual Art" at this year's Independent Game Festival. As you explore its lovely and imaginatively drawn setting, Machinarium succeeds in drawing you in more and more with each new location.
This is really tougher than it looks, believe me.
I hate potted plants.
You play a charming little robot that accidentally gets kicked out of a mechanical city and finds itself looking for a way back. At the same time, he tries to save his girlfriend and stop a group of ghastly robot baddies from setting off a bomb.
As in most standard adventure games, you progress by exploring the environment and rationally combining items you've picked up a long the way. So, yes, using your brains is a must, I'm afraid. To make things quite clear, those of you who are not up for a variety of tough puzzles and quite a few difficult challenges in classic P&C (point & click) fashion, you're probably better off playing something else. Machinarium presents complicated logical tight spots so to speak. In other words, at times, it can be too hard for any gamer, regardless of previous experience. Therein lies the game's greatest flaw. Despite its cute and appealing art style, compelling characters, Machinarium requires some serious brainstorming. The requirement for brainstorming isn't the problem, but rather some dubious design and gameplay choices.
If you get stuck on a particular problem, you can play through a mini-game, a side-scrolling shooter sequence, leading up to an explanation of how the problem can be solved. While this seems like a welcomed addition to the generally monotonous 2D-style point & click gameplay, it doesn't quite smooth things along when the frustration comes. Facing certain puzzles is hindered by that ever-present issue always known to plague most old adventure games - the difficulty of spotting crucial items on the screen. In my case, this happened more than once. On top of dealing with a tough challenge, I had to spend a long time finding useable objects in the immediate area.
Ironically, Machinarium's chief weakness is also its main strength. It's a been a while since we've had a proper puzzle flavored adventure game and in that sense Machinarium brings more than a satisfactory choice of challenges. If it weren't for certain gameplay mishaps, the game would've got more attention altogether. Disregarding these issues, this is still a fine experience, perhaps best-suited for people who like to spend a lot of time figuring out a tricky and rather challenging set of puzzles throughout the entire game. You really shouldn't hesitate in giving it a try at least.
8.3 Very Good
Beautifully drawn levels and characters, imaginative setting, cute music and sounds, challenging puzzles...
The extreme difficulty of certain puzzles often kills the fun.
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