Well, here’s my last review on an Amanita Design game. While there are more games than just the 4 I’ve reviewed (according to their Wikipedia page anyway), these are the award-winning, or at least the award nominated ones. This one is about Machinarium, produced in 2009 and is easily my favourite of Amanita Design’s games (so far).
A game with no dialogue – or dialogue where speech bubbles appear and small cartoons play out – allows for a bit of interpretation. So here’s my interpretation of the story of Machinarium:
It is the year… some year, in the galaxy… possibly ours, and all humans and fauna are extinct (flora is still doing great). On this desolate rock is a single Machine City containing the last sentient inhabitants, the Robot Race. A lone hovercraft hangs over the City and drifts down towards the junk-yard, a graveyard, the last resting place of all Robots. It drops down some trash. Amongst it a not-so-dead Robot. Putting himself together, the Robot makes his way back to the City.
The Machine City is a built-up metropolis where various factions fight for dominance on the streets and single Robots struggle to make a living, constantly dominated and oppressed by the factions. The entire city is maintained by a slave-caste of vacuum cleaner, air-conditioning and maintenance robots. Single robots struggle to make ends meet, constantly oppressed by mobsters and terrorists. A God-Machine rules over the city, controlling and observing all of its facets, though rarely interfering.
The Robot has been oppressed and extorted by a group of 3 terrorists for years now and moves back into the city to solve that problem. What the terrorists didn’t expect was that Robot is the descendant from the Great Lord Bender and with extendable arms, legs and body, an incredibly stomach storage space and amazing lateral, logic-puzzle solving skills.
Robot only has 3 hours to disarm the bomb, defeat the terrorists and rescue his lass before the shit really hits the fan.
I won’t lie, you probably should take my interpretation with a pinch of salt; it’s up to you how much of it you believe to be true. I may have painted Machinarium as a grim game, but in reality, it’s quite cute. Dvořák returns to do the soundtrack and like all the other games I’ve played, it hits the spot. While all his music is simple and often sounds similar, every tune and song he does seems to be finely tuned for the game’s them. The art style is also very different from the other games, being more of sketchbook style. I had to admit that it seems slightly influenced by Futurama as most of the robots seems to resemble the robots from that show.
This game also has the one addition of having a proper inventory system, though you never carry around more than five items at one time. This isn’t because there are only ten or so items in the game but more because once again, Amanita have employed the self-contained puzzle system (mostly). If you read the other reviews, you’ll know what I mean by this. The majority of the second half of the game is not self-contained, though thankfully you go through and use items reasonably quickly as there is only one item which is not one-use-only.
The game can sometimes be a little difficult at times, but in a great way as you not only have to solve lateral and logic puzzles, but also mathematical, mechanical, picture and even a musical puzzle. Occasionally there are multiple solutions to the one problem. There’s one puzzle which requires to construct a pattern in a series of light to unlock a door. The pattern is the same as a certain butterfly’s (mechanical in nature). You can either observe a specimen with a magnifying glass that’s in the glass-house, or you can use the slide machine to look at the pattern on a slide. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in a point-and-click adventure game.
If you get stuck, each area has a hint. Or if you’re really screwed (no pun intended), there is a walk-through book which can be unlocked by playing a small scroller-shooter attached the book. You have to play it each time you want to use it and is time-consuming. This is an amazing mechanic, allowing you look up the answers in-game, but making you work for it. On that note, Machinarium is constantly paying homage to old-school video games with a Space Invaders machine, a game of connect four and even a type of dungeon game.
I would recommend playing this game in one solid effort as I managed to finish it in 3 hours as the save system is almost pointless. Rather than saving at the exact point you saved at, it saves it more at a checkpoint from when your first entered the area.
This game is easily my favourite out of all the games I’ve played by Amanita Design. The game-play and game design aren’t quite as good as Botanicula, but the story-line, art and music style definitely are. The game also manages to be futuristic, Steampunk, post-apocalyptic and even an element of noir at the same time.
Last fun fact. the name Amanita Design comes from the Amanita genus of mushroom, the famous one that’s red with white spots. The Amanita Muscaria was recorded to distort the size of perceived objects, inspiring the effect of eating the mushroom in Alice in Wonderland. It’s also the inspiration for the mushroom in Super Mario Bros. causing you to grow bigger. Maybe Amanita Design is all about altering our perceptions, not about the merit of indie games but also about the potential of point-and-click adventures.