The latest gaming innovations from all major companies have been focused on extensive graphical features and very complex story lines that ensure them a dose of realism to which any gamer can relate in a virtual environment. My question to you is what happened to the good old classic point and click games that combined puzzles and funny cartoons in a challenging and yet fun way to spend your spare hours?
The answer lies in what Amanita Design has managed to publish. Machinarium is one of the few point and click puzzle games that have managed to revive the classic puzzle adventure and give it a nice wrap by using high quality and intriguing graphics. This is indeed one of the reasons why the game has won the “Exellence in Visual Art” prize at the Independent Game Festival in 2009.Story
Machinarium starts off with a small cinematic depicting the accidental eviction of a goofy robot out of the robot city. He finds himself on the outskirts of the city, in a garbage pit, all busted up and scattered across multiple areas. Your mission so far is to help him get a grip on himself, literally, and try to find a way back into the city.
As you will soon discover, there is more to it than just reaching the city, you will also have to go and search for your beloved robot girlfriend that appears to be nowhere in sight. As you solve the numerous puzzles that you are faced with and make your way to the city, you will notice that you are destined to do great things and that your misfortune of being thrown in this unwilling adventure will lead you to even save the city and the girl that you so dearly love.Gameplay
As soon as you start the game, you will notice that something is very different from what you were expecting. This is probably because you were hoping for something else rather than a Flash game. It's true, the game is entirely made using vector graphics and I have to say that if it hadn't been for the right click Flash content menu, I would have never guessed.
The main character is a small yet very expressive little robot that has the ability to chance his size from crunching down to the floor, to stretching all the way up whenever he needs to reach something. You will probably find him amusing at first with all the funny faces that he makes, accompanied by an adorable clumsiness, then later on you realize that all of this is necessary for you to take your mind off the stomping puzzle that you will be faced with. Believe me when I say that these types of puzzles are not to be taken lightly.
For instance, from the moment you enter the game, you will have to piece yourself back together and find a way to return to the robot city. Sounds simple enough, but in reality you have to solve a dozen of puzzles before you even reach the city gates, let alone enter it and rescue your robot soul-mate.
Leaving aside the point and click aspect of the game, the sheer amount of puzzles that you have to solve is mind boggling and not only that they increase in difficulty, but you also have to set in motion the right set of events in the right order. Each scene that you are in has its own mysteries and the game does not provide any hints on any area. Moving the mouse around so that you can stumble across something to interact with will resolve nothing because you won't find anything that shows you what you can and cannot use. It's all a matter of getting the robot close enough to each an object and then checking to see if he can use it.
You also have an inventory that you can use to stack various useful items. Once you find one, click and the mechanical tin can will immediately swallow it up and thus adding it to your inventory. The game offers you the ability to combine items together, but because you can only use the left mouse button, you must drag and drop items onto one another and then use them.
If you have any trouble with any of the brutal puzzles, you can reach to your upper right side of the screen and use the hint button. Don't expect to view a detailed schematic on what you have to do, instead you will be shown a small bubble with a drawing that will give you a good idea on what the end result of the puzzle should be. If this isn't enough, the game also comes packed with a built-in walkthrough that can be more that useful as long as you don't abuse it.
The walkthrough is probably what you might expect. It's actually a small mini-game where you get to control a shooting key and take out any enemy that you encounter while you dodge obstacles. Sounds simple enough, but it's not. The challenge is to keep doing this for a couple of minutes without hitting anything or being hit. Although frustrating at first, I understand why this mini-game was necessary, to keep you distracted long enough so that you can either cool down from the nervous breakdown you were having by not finding the solution to the puzzle or give you time to relax a bit in order to get ready to take another whack at the puzzle.Video and Sound
The usage of vector graphics combined with the cartoonish design that reminds us of something that Tim Burton would have thought of was an excellent choice. The attention to details is staggering along with the fact that it comes wrapped up in a comic book style. The game is all about visuals and interaction, with everything based on the premise that you first need to figure out what you want and then find the tools that you need. All items are perfectly blended into the scenery so that there is no way of telling which of them can be used and which cannot. The retro look and feel combined with the quality of the graphics deserves a thumbs up, from both hands.
What's even more fascinating is the original soundtrack. Without even realizing, the music has a funny way of making you feel very uppity and confident, setting the right mood for you to start exploring. It's like one of those old cartoons where everything was expressed through music. Each gesture and event that you trigger is very vividly expressed by the original sounds accompanied by the cheerful soundtrack.Overall
The truth is that the game is, by far, one of the best point and click puzzle games that I've had the pleasure of playing. Still, the brutal puzzles that you will have to face in order to complete the game are more than challenging, but perhaps this is why the game is so much fun to play. There's nothing like the satisfaction of dusting off a few neurons so that you can find the solution to a tricky problem. In all fairness, the game stands as one of the best of its genre and I believe that even those that are not really big fans of point and click adventures won't be disappointed.