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Movie critic Robert Ebert once claimed that “movies will never be art.” While its doubtful game’s like Angry Birds will ever grace art galas, a title like Amanita Design’s Machinarium proves time and time again that the video game medium can be as emotionally engaging as a beautifully crafted painting. With Machinarium, Amanita Design takes everything that makes point-and-click adventures great and packages it with stunning art direction.
Machinarium’s story is not overly complex. After being dumped and abandoned in a scrapyard, you’ll follow the trail of an unnamed robot as he makes his way back home. Not one word of dialogue is spoken during the course of the game, and most of the story is told through gestures and thought bubbles. This fundamental principle makes Machinarium unique and does not detract at all from the story.
Right from the start, you’ll notice Machinarium’s gorgeous art direction. Like stepping into a graphic novel, the 2-D penciled characters and background depicts how much thought Amanita Design put into crafting this game. The steam punk dystopian (future?) setting of Machinarium is hauntingly beautiful. Upon first stepping into the city in the game, I was taken aback by the details on even the most minor things. Pipes, steel and cold metal drape the city into a blanket of steel – I was just as impressed with the visuals of Machinarium as seeing current generation console graphics for the first time.
Like death and taxes, point-and-click controls on touchscreens have become expected in mobile gaming. Almost to the point of saturation, most point and click (tap) games have slowly become a random hide-and-seek guessing game. Thankfully, Machinarium is a step above games in its own genre. Instead of the usual trial and error, the puzzles contained within the game rely on logic and common sense. Aside from the first few areas, the obstacles you’ll face are consistently difficult. You’ll find yourself backtracking a number of times as you piece together smaller pieces of a puzzle into grander challenges.
As difficult as Machinarium is, the developers throws you a bone in a form of a two-tiered hint system. One is a thought bubble on how the little robot completely concludes the area. The second system acts as a journal, a visual step-by-step guide on how players can solve the puzzle. To access the journal is a little more difficult: the developer puts the player into a shooter mini-game. This get very tedious, and once you’ve opened the book, you’ll be prompted to play again, even in the same area.
One incredibly small gripe is how the game is not fully landscape. On tablets, the status bar reverts into portrait mode. While the developers implemented this to prevent accidental presses, I actually found myself touching the area by accident. The placement of the menu and hint buttons makes it relatively close to the status bar and once it becomes visible, it no longer fades back to black. A minor annoyance, but still worth addressing.
That said, only a select few will only be able to enjoy this classic. As the game is massive in scope, so is its size, literally. Android smartphones will have to take a back seat as it is only available on tablets. Though it’s a shame the masses won’t be enjoying this well-crafted masterpiece, it’s quite understandable. As most of the interactable items are quite small, the limited sizes of phones would just detract from the experience.
If you didn’t play Machinarium on PC a few years back, I highly suggest you pick up this port. Amanita Design has created a stunning game that’s engaging as well as fun. If you’re looking for a game with a more substance and direction, you will fall head-over-heels in love with Machinarium.