Machinarium review (PSN)

Machinarium was developed and published by Amanita Design. The PSN game is available for  €7.95/£6.49/AU$12.95 and coming up this week to the US Store for $9.99.

While it’s been about 15 years since the golden age of point-and-click adventures, there are some companies that bravely take part in trying to resurrect this noble genre. In 2009, Amanita Design, also known for games like Samorost and Botanicula, released Machinarium, a traditional puzzle point-and-click adventure game. Now the game is also available on PSN for all the fans to enjoy.

Amanita Design didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Machinarium; the game is very much like what one would expect of the genre. You control a small robot, trying to make his way back into the city from a scrapyard he’s been dumped in. The left analog stick controls a cursor, which can order him to move or interact with the environment. The right analog stick makes him stretch up or shrink down. Moving around and stretching is very important, since the robot can only touch objects that are within his reach. Pick up everything you can, combine items and use your brain to proceed through the rusty, but beautiful world of Machinarium.

Here’s what we liked:

Graphics - Machinarium is a game that will survive the test of time. Attempts at realistic graphics will always be dated, but even a hundred years later, the highly stylished, storybook-like graphics will look as good as they do now. Each screen is like a painting and new areas are in themselves rewards enough for solving puzzles—as it should be with adventure games.

Storytelling – The game features no text or spoken dialogue; the story is told visually, through action and thought bubbles. The player is thrown into the game world with no information about anything, even the motivations of the main character. The puzzles drive the experience forward and upon meeting familiar characters or situations, the robot recalls the backstory little by little.

Even the silent background characters are well defined by their design; one look is usually enough to see the personality of the character and a little bit of their history too. Many hints on the overall story of the characters and the world are dropped , but a lot of it is left for the player to decipher. It can truly light up the imagination.

Atmosphere - There’s a very unique feel to the world of Machinarium, something that it has common with other Amanita Design’s games. The design is generally very bleak, but there’s also a cuteness to many of the characters. The excellent background music and sounds set the tone, ranging from claustrophobic ambience of an underground prison to relaxing radio music at an oil cafe.

Hint system – Players nowadays are generally less willing to stay stuck on one place for long times, especially since all the solutions are so easily available on the Internet. Many developers have gone on to cut out the middle man and added a hint system to their adventure games. While this is seen as a necessary evil, there’s no reason it can’t be done well.

In Machinarium, you can click on a hint bubble once every level to see an illustration on what you’re supposed to be doing. This is very good for clearing up the situation, but if you’re seriously stuck, there’s also an in-game hint book, showing all the solutions in more detail. Every time when opening the book, however, you need to play a short minigame, which takes away at least some of that guilty feeling of cheating.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Occasional lack of logic -There are many parts in Machinarium where you just know you’re supposed to do something, but you don’t know why you need to do it. By interacting with various objects, different puzzles present themselves, but they often don’t seem to offer any solutions to the overall situation. Instead of just blindly solving different puzzles, hoping to come up with an item or a route that will help you get to the next area, it would’ve been nice to actually see the “locked door” before aquiring the “key”.

Brain teaser puzzles – In addition to traditional adventure game logic puzzles, there are many mini games that you have to play to proceed. These games range from Space Invaders to Tic-tac-toe. It’s a matter of opinion, whether you like small brain teaser-like puzzles or not, but there are quite many of them towards the end and they always interrupt the experience. Instead of solving situations within the game world, the player is suddenly just given a completely different game to play, many of which are simply versions of well-known brain-teasers.

Machinarium is a must-have for all adventure game fans and works very well to introduce the genre for newcomers also. The lack of a mouse controller for this version isn’t a big problem either, with the new, streamlined interface features, such as a sticky cursor, quick inventory access button and a zoom feature. If you missed the game the first time around, now’s your chance to redeem yourself!

Score: Buy it!

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About Sasu Kemppainen

Sasu Kemppainen is an aspiring video game designer and writer, dabbling in journalism. He's the news editor for WindowsPhoneFans.com and associate editor for PSNFans.com. He doesn't really care for writing about himself and his incredible achievements in third person.