Review: Machinarium

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I’ve been wanting to review Machinarium anyway, but amazingly it was just updated a matter of days ago. This little treasure from Amanita Design has been brought fully into the present with modern resolution support, controller options, and a pretty hilarious bug that makes it run super fast if you try to G-Sync it. Despite that last bit this update has wiped out any criticism I could have leveled at the game for feeling dated or being clunky, leaving only the clunky charms of its trash robot inhabitants to recommend to you without reservation.

Machinarium is the tale of a little robot in a junkyard. He isn’t WALL-Eing the place up, he was dumped out here and it’s up to you to find out why. A quick jaunt across the wastes finds him in a towering mechanical city of similarly junky, quirky robots all needing your help. Somewhere in the great beeping metropolis is a secret that only you can uncover, and a plot that only you can unravel to save its clanking inhabitants.

Doing this is sure to be one of the most adorable gaming experiences of your life. Your little robo-buddy toddles along on two baton-like legs, snakes his little grabbers out to nab things, drops items into his flip-top maw, and takes in the world with the most precious, gormless stare you can imagine. Just having him on the screen will put a smile on your face, and when he starts tooling around in carts and tumbling off of ladders you really can’t help but sensibly chuckle. The other denizens of the city are no less charming, with uptight patrol bots stomping around, mechanical street bands tooting on old pieces of pipe, and clockwork bugs humming happily through the alleys.

It’s a living game world in a way that so many other titles can’t seem to capture, and it’s ironic that it’s accomplished entirely with robots. Much like Primordia every robot has their own distinct character but here, it is expressed entirely without words. As with all Amanita games the only language you’ll here is perky gibberish, leaving characters to communicate through wild gesticulation and the occasional thought bubble. It’s the little details in the art and animation that make it work so well, all the way down to your robot’s eyes narrowing when enacting small revenge on a tormentor, or the way he adjusts his metal plates when left idle long enough. And more than anything this helps the story, which has some emotional twists that are heightened by the players emoting their little metal hearts out for.

As excellent as the look and feel is, we can’t forget the puzzling. Machinarium, much like other Amanita games, only allows limited ranges of movement on most screens. While this opens up more later in the game it can feel limiting, but the trade-off is that it becomes easier to find what you need to interact with and how to interact with it. Almost as a concession to this point, your robot can stretch or shrink his height to reach out-of-the-way items or blend in with taller or shorter robots, a gimmick used to full effect throughout the entire game. You won’t be finding a ton of items, either, so combined with the limited movement and interaction points this should be a pretty simple game for anyone to get through.

Your journey in this mechanical wonderland shouldn’t take more than two hours, but those are two hours just loaded with humor and charm. The sketchy art style itself is a joy to behold, with rich details in every surface and object. A subdued soundtrack accompanies the look in a way that gives more texture to the troubled city, offsetting some of the silliness with a reminder that not all is well in the mysterious metropolis. And with the recent updates, any concerns about compatibility or accessibility have been entirely wiped away. With so many fully-realized elements, Machinarium is a clear classic of the point-and-click genre, one that makes an excellent entry point for newcomers or a charming diversion for veterans alike.

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