Backlog Redux 2014 #38 – Machinarium

Machinarium

Tin Can with an Appetite

I decided to take a second run at point-and-click Machinarium immediately following the completion of Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror; my first attempt having been thwarted early on by a particularly nasty puzzle involving a floating oil pump and a plunger-gun. Well, that and other reviews monopolizing my attention back then. But this time I emerged victorious – without a walkthrough, I might add – and guided little robot Josef through a city inhabited by machines, ultimately freeing his friend (girlfriend?) Berta from the dastardly villains whom she was forced to cook for, escaping the city together.

MachinariumAmanita Design’s art direction throughout Machinarium is truly lovely, and the whole game benefits from a home-brewed, pencil-sketch look, with lots of brown and ochre tones, the way I’d imagine a city populated by robot folk to look like (kind of rusted, covered in a smoggy miasma). What’s more, the plot is conveyed through the use of pantomime and other non-verbal noises and gestures. When catching sight of a bullish, rotund robot and his slightly slimmer but not much kinder cohort from a safe hiding spot, little Josef remembers a time when said robots stole his lunch money, when they were all younger and (presumably) attending Robot Academy. This way the audience quickly learns the relationships between characters, and the story becomes as much about rescuing Josef’s girlfriend as paying the bullies back their due.

Machinarium is adventuring at its “old-schoolest”, letting players pick up impossibly-sized items and store them in the inventory – in this case, Josef’s head splits backward, opening vertical access to his hollow inside, where things get stored for easy access. You then use these items to solve puzzles and logic challenges throughout the entire game. Whether deciding how to deal with a particularly burly guard robot blocking a door or how to access an out-of-reach ventilation shaft, the gameplay is instantly familiar to anyone with a background in classic adventures. That being said, puzzles are satisfyingly meaty, often making me scratch my head when an idea didn’t work out, until I’d thought of another solution to attempt. Like I said earlier, I was forced to restart the game entirely after being utterly flummoxed by an early puzzle, though that ultimately came down to a misunderstanding of what the actual puzzle was – I thought I had to find more missing components to make a control console work, not realizing I simply wasn’t clicking on the correct sections to use it.

MachinariumDespite its healthy challenge, Machinarium ended all too soon. Making considerable strides each time I picked it up, and typically encountering one nail-biter per go, it probably only took five or six sessions to come out the other side. And so, after finishing all visits and last-minute errands on Christmas Eve, and returning to a dark and sleeping house just prior to midnight, I spent the first early-morning hour or two of Christmas Day sopping up the last few crumbs of this tasty yuletide treat.

All good things must come to an end, but my Steam library is full of unplayed games yet, anticipating all the other adventurey goodness in store for me in the coming year made the moment that much sweeter. Games like the 20th Anniversary remake of none other than one of my two favorite games of all time, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (which I aim to play next!); other adventure that have gotten a lot of love all over the place, like Paper, Please! and Gone Home; and even some chillers I can’t wait to get the shit scared out by, like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Five Nights at Freddy’s. At this rate, it’s going to be a heck of a fun holiday season! But for now, I’ve got promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

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