By Mento 0 Comments
May the Fifth
The source: Indie Royale's The Evolved Bundle
The pre-amble: Unmechanical is a physics-based puzzle-adventure game in which the player controls a flying lifeform that is lost inside an immense underground factory of sorts. The goal is to simply make your way out of the facility using flight, the picking up of small objects and interacting with levers and switches in the environment. More pre-amble can be found in Giant Bomb's QL of the game here.
The playthrough: Unmechanical's a delight. I was worried about following up a physics-based puzzle game (that would be yesterday's Vessel) with another one but Unmechanical turned out to be just as much fun with a similar emphasis on clever but not annoyingly precise (well, besides a couple) puzzles. It also felt like an exceptionally short game (the QL cuts off at around the halfway mark) but in the midst of this ludicrous daily feature I'm finding that isn't such a negative trait for a game to have. It's important to not outstay one's welcome or repeat the same puzzle instances over and over for the sake of added longevity - in this particular philosophy the humble puzzle game is much more suitable to shorter games like this than the often-bloated Laytons. (Not a knock against the good Professor, necessarily, but every game I've played in that series felt a bit overstuffed by the time the ending rolls around, which can often be a shame since the stories themselves are so good.)
Anyway, Unmechanical doesn't have any top hats, but it's still a marvelous little game. While it's almost certainly a concession dictated by the developers' non-English speaking roots (this particular game was developed by a studio in Sweden) the whole "infer the plot from the dialogue-free encounters and incidental background details" is a really cool narrative device, one that rarely talks down to the viewer/player but instead asks them to pay attention to get the most of out the story. The goal of Unmechanical is as perfunctory as it gets, as it's simply solving a chain of puzzles to get between the starting area and the exit, but the immense underground setting is this totally alien environment full of interesting minute details either operating benignly in the background or passed over as they ultimately have no relevance towards getting the next passageway open. Unmechanical chooses to explain very little about its setting, and despite it essentially being a colorful backdrop to all the intricately designed puzzles it still manages to frequently trump them as the chief target of my interest. Talk about being more fascinated by the gift wrapping than the gift itself.
Sure, physics-based platformers are a dime-a-dozen and Unmechanical in particular shares a lot of concepts with the similarly themed (and named) Machinarium, but it's still worth checking out if you happen to have a few hours spare and are looking at it in your Steam library wondering where it came from.
The verdict: I've completed it, so I won't be going back. Once you know the solution to all the puzzles...