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All Thumbsticks with Johan: Machinarium Review

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

Machinarium screenshot

Even though I tell my friends that my first experience playing video games was the Apple version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by Electronic Arts, I feel as if that is a disservice. Not that it isn’t; I’ve played that game many times, but it felt lacking. Scrolling through my middle school years, I remember falling in love with a little browser game known as Samorost, made by a little Czech game studio known as Amanita Design. It had a little fella who travelled an imaginative techno-organic planet poised to run into your home planet, and immediately, you are in the game. Now, Amanita has gathered accolades for the Samorost series, Botanicula, and others. But, at the time, 2003-2009, they haven’t had a full game outside of PC. Until late 2009 when the studio released its first full length game about a little robot.

Machinarium, developed and published by Amanita Design, is an award-winning casual point and click puzzle game that tells a story of romance, corruption, and robots in a challenging yet elegantly made world where logic rules all. Unlike most games, the story isn’t set in dialogue, but in small sketches and You play as Josef, a robot who is dumped on a scrap pile on accident and is forced to go back into a robot filled city he calls home, before being caught in a web set by the Black Hat Gang; a robot band seeking to cause mischief and mayhem wherever they are. So, it is your job to stop them in whatever plan they are hoping to accomplish in order to save the day and get the girl.

The gameplay is like any point and click game, with the mouse, you direct Josef where he needs to go, and can interact with the environment should you choose to. You can also extend or shrink Josef’s body by clicking and dragging him up or down to get items or apply them in different levels. Within each level is a puzzle that you will have to solve to progress to the area, or you need to find an item and apply it to a broken or missing mechanism. Sometimes, you will have to backtrack to old levels in order to continue to a new area or will have to play in two different areas to solve a puzzle. As the game progresses, Machinarium challenges its players by making them think out of the box and test their mental mettle. From playing minigames to figuring out how to activate an elevator with pegs, these puzzles will make you work on the solutions as hard as you can. If you are stuck on one part, then don’t worry! You can get a hint from a Hint Book, but be aware that for each hint you use, it will be more difficult to get another one and the instructions are drawn than written.

The atmosphere in the game is breathtaking; the music, atmospheric sound effects in the background, and the imaginative and animated characters and setting that litters the scenes around the world of Machinarium, complete with a color palette that mixes metallic colors with muted hues. The characterization of these robotic citizens is drawn wonderfully and animated with as much realism. Lastly, the soundtrack for this game is wonderfully made with its beats and electronic synths, but also clarinets and unconventional instruments.

But it is with its faults. There is a lot of backtracking in this game with no map if you want to jump from one place to another, items are not always available to see with the naked eye, and there are moments where the game can be boring. The streamlined barebones of this game are its strength and its weakness in which once you’ve finished all the puzzles in one room, there isn’t much left to do in it.

I can see why this award winner got noticed; it’s a beautiful game without the use of much dialogue in its storytelling and it keeps on giving as much as it can. The game handles the Adventure Inventory Genre with its Logic Puzzle elements gracefully and with as much cleverness it can put into a single five to six-hour puzzle game depending how long you put into it. It’s a well-made game and you should sink those $20 into an excellent experience!

Machinarium is 19.99 on Steam and Playstation 3.

- Written by Johan Wyckoff

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