By Mento 1 Comments
11/05/12 - Game #10
The source: The second Humble Indie Bundle
The pre-amble: Czech studio Amanita Design has made quite a few of their uniquely whimsical point-and-click adventures now, most recent of which is Botanicula. Their breakout hit, though, was this cute little tale of a rundown robot in an equally rusty berg of automatons that vary from largely apathetic to downright mean, with the backstory being revealed incrementally through Binding of Isaac-style animated thought bubbles. It's an adventure game that follows what I obfuscatingly coined semi-recently as "episodic" - each section of the game tends to be a self-contained zone with its smattering of puzzles, the solution of which grants you access to the next area with usually very little reason to go back.
The playthrough: This game is just delightful. But I knew as much, given this game's been out for a good three years now and became kind of unavoidable after it was given away in an early Humble Bundle. It's a little gross that I've only just got around to it, actually. Like Lume (probably bad form to follow one game with another just like it), the puzzles are a mix of adventure game "use X with Y" mainstays and the recently popular Layton-esque self-contained Mensa brainteasers, such as sliding blocks around or those friggin' matchsticks. There are no matchstick puzzles in Machinarium, but at least one of every other type of annoying set-up you might've come across in a Layton or Puzzle Agent. In Machinarium's defense, though, adventure games with these sorts of puzzles were still relatively fresh back then. It also has a neat little gimmick where the main character can extend or contract his telescopic body, giving him a higher reach and longer reach, respectively. Of course, he isn't exactly celeritous when stretched or compacted, leading to some annoyance when you accidentally click to the next area and the little dude interminably trundles along, happily oblivious to my frantic attempts to skip the walking animation.
Since this is another game I beat in a few hours with little else I want to say in detail about it, lest I spoil some of the puzzles, here's a bunch of earlier graphic adventures that Machinarium reminded me of in some way: Beneath A Steel Sky's general setting, a slightly dingy arcology that tends towards the up/down axis when progressing through it, rather than the usual length and breadth; Gobliiins' sense of humorous, dialogue-free European whimsy as well as quite a few timing-based puzzles; and, of course, the aforementioned Layton "manatee puzzles" - that is, the type of non sequitur IQ test bait that the game drops in your lap while trying to activate an electronic switch or what have you similar to Family Guy's non sequitur, largely context-free asides. I know it's reductive to say a game's little more than a composite of elements from its elders, but it's also reassuring, in a way, to know that the designers are clearly just as passionate about these games as you are. Wearing your influences on your sleeve isn't necessary a bad thing. Especially when the entire package is so uniquely presented.
Some more scandalous behind the scenes info: This entry was supposed to be about Magicka. But somehow my PC isn't good enough to run it at anything faster than an especially soporific snail's pace. You might even say it bork bork bork my computer. But seriously, I have no idea what's up since it looks as graphically intense as Torchlight, which ran just fine. Maybe it's all those spell physics. I think next time I do one of these PC gaming marathon features, it'll be games I have to run through DOSBox. At least I know my PC can handle those.
The verdict: Beaten like a copper-domed step-droid.