Review: Machinarium for iPad PDF Print E-mail

Machinarium is a complex puzzle game with beautifully detailed graphics.

As a non-gamer, I'm a bit embarrassed by how addictive I found Machinarium. I also have a few confessions: it was a bit frustrating at times; I may have cheated a bit; and I'm a little sad that I've finished the game.

Machinarium is a slightly offbeat puzzle-solving game. What makes it offbeat? Well, for starters, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world and kicks off with the protagonist, a robot, being kicked out of the Machinarium, and thrown onto a pile of rubbish. By following clues, users are able to put the robot back together, sneak back into the Machinarium and rescue the robot's love interest (who is being held captive by some not-so-nice robots).

Of course, there is a lot more the stretchy robot has to do before he can get the girl. Tasks in the mini-adventure include defusing a bomb, rescuing a dog and getting back at the nasty bots.

Look and feel

Machinarium's creepy, steam-punkesque design is refreshingly different to that of most tablet game apps. The game is also significantly more complicated than many of the point-and-shoot-style games and the Angry Birds copycats that are so common on tablet devices.
The hand-drawn graphics and muted colouring add to the game's dystopian feel. The Machinarium is made up of rundown buildings and the soundtrack is at times somewhat eerie. These features add to the atmosphere of doom prevalent throughout the game.
The back-story to the Machinarium world and its characters is narrated to the player through interactions with other characters and the occasional recollection by the protagonist. Interacting with other characters also unlocks some clues, in the form of doodled speech bubbles – there is no spoken dialogue in the game.
This game is a must for those who enjoy solving puzzles. While the gameplay is mostly drag-and-drop, the game is rather complex. Players have to take note of everything that happens in the game, because clues are subtle, appearing to the player in the form of sounds and animations from other characters.
Most of the tasks in this mini-adventure involve the robot collecting items – he keeps these in his inventory by throwing back his head and dropping them down his throat. The inventory is displayed at the bottom of the screen, allowing users to tap and drag items, either giving them to other characters, or using them to solve puzzles.
The game also features a guidebook that has detailed sketches on how to solve the puzzles in each room. The guidebook is unlocked by playing a short point-and-shoot game. This pops up when users tap on the guidebook. Once this game has been played to completion, the book pops open.
I think this is a nice add-on for when users get stuck. The point-and-shoot game is also a cunning way to stop users from just opening the book each time they enter a new room. Tapping on the light bulb also gives users a clue, although this is just one doodle of the final goal, and usually, it's the 'how to' part that's tricky, rather than the 'what'.
The robot can only interact with objects and characters in his immediate vicinity, which means a lot of time is spent directing him around rooms. In moments of frustration, I found myself endlessly tapping every area of the screen in an effort to find objects to solve the scene's puzzles. The truth is, the game is incredibly tricky, and I had to consult the guidebook more than once.
The puzzles themselves involve anything from fiddling with circuit boards, to assembling the objects in the inventory, to helping other characters in exchange for other objects.
Unfortunately, the game is not without a few glitches. Tapping on objects sometimes appears to give no response, unless users are extremely accurate about where they tap. Also, once the robot is on a motion path, users are unable to stop him, or get him to do something else, until he is finished, which was frustrating at times.
The game also comes with the ability to save.
In a nutshell
Machinarium's gorgeous, if creepy visuals make it a must-have app, even if only for the "oohs" and "aahs" users will get from their friends. The game is tricky enough to keep users busy for a good eight hours.
I did find the $4.99 price tag a bit steep for a game that can only be fully enjoyed once. However, the attention to detail in the graphics and the cute animation make this app worth it.
Good: Beautiful graphics; challenging game.
Bad: The point-and-tap gameplay can be a bit tiresome.
Rating: 9/10
Price: $4.99
Download: iTunes link

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