One of the great advantages of developing Ebenezer, my Old Testament adventure game, is the excuse it gives me to periodically “do research” by playing other adventure games that are out there and seeing some of the different approaches that people take. For a while now I’ve been eager to play Machinarium, a game I’ve only ever heard good things spoken of, and the perfect opportunity presented itself just before Christmas when it was available as part of the Humble Indie Bundle #2. Here are my vague musings after playing it through.

Machinarium is set in some kind of dystopian city populated entirely by robots and robotic vermin. It is at once haunting and adorable, fearsome and yet whimsical. The whole game proceeds without any dialogue, but the story is gradually revealed through a series of memories represented by scribbled animations. It’s brilliantly done and all leaves you with a smile on your face. You can’t really help but fall in love with the main character, a little robot apparently called Josef, as he goes about his business.


Everything about Machinarium is gorgeous to look at. The background art is painstakingly detailed and a real treat to behold, and all of the characters and animation are excellent too. The soundtrack is top notch too, and really serves to set the atmosphere at key moments in the story – it’s almost a character in its own right.

The puzzles in Machinarium are a combination of classic adventure game fare and various minigames that suit the robotic theme – such as when you have to play on various old arcade games like space invaders. The twist on the usual adventure game puzzles is that you can only interact with items within immediate reach of your character, and exactly what results you will get depends on when you are standing. This adds a new dimension to things, although at times it makes the classic problem of pixel-hunting even worse as you physically need to move around the scene to discover what you’re able to interact with. A sign of the times is the fact that built into the game itself is a hint system and also a full-on step-by-step walkthrough for each room, which you unlock by playing another silly little minigame (wisely, they make you play the game again each time you want to consult it, helping you to avoid the temptation to give up too easily on attempting to solve the puzzles yourself). In my experience it seemed to strike the right balance between making the game too easy on the one hand and risking me giving up in frustration on the other, but I’m sure there are some purists out there who’d object to the fact that I had to use the hints.


All in all Machinarium probably lasted me about a day of sporadic gameplay during my holidays, making it a little on the short side. On the other hand, it was as long as it needed to be, and it’s so perfectly crafted that I think to make it any longer would have spoiled it. It was a real joy to play through, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure games. If I could come anywhere close to creating an experience as delightful as Machinarium when developing Ebenezer, I’d be very satisfied indeed.

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