Posted by Michael Temple.
First posted on 07 February 2011. Last updated on 19 November 2012.
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Ninja robot!
The robots are as vibrant as life in the mechanical city.
The town square is the city's only hub.
Keep an eye on the bird!

Machinarium: Collectors' Edition

The Collectors' Edition is a retail release of the game that includes, in addition, a poster, a concept art booklet, and a printed walkthrough of the game as well as a bonus soundtrack CD of the game's music.

Czech developer Amanita Design has been creating standalone online Flash games for a while now, some serving as interactive advertising for well-known brands such as Nike. Machinarium is the developer's first full-length game. Like the developer's previous game, Samorost2, Machinarium is a quirky and clever puzzle game that takes you on an episodic ride with all the hallmarks of classic point-and-click adventuring.

The game begins medias in res, with a clunky but adorable robot being apparently tossed on a scrap heap on the outskirts of a fortified town. Playing as the robot, your immediate goal is to get some of your limbs back that have been shaken loose from whatever violence you have just suffered. From there, you will find other immediate goals to tackle. The game's story is as such—no more and no less. Aside from a few animated thought bubble flashbacks or musings from the nameless robot, the story consists of getting out of whatever milieu you find yourself in and onto the next. The game plays much like an obstacle course, without much of an overarching narrative to keep your imagination captured on any particular outcome. When you reach the end of the maze, find out the why of it all, there is not much resonance to it: the game, more or less, is simply over.

While a game created in Adobe Flash may not be hitting any heights in technical achievement, Amanita Design has admirably succeeded with this game in getting as much out of the platform as possible. The art direction is charming, and the animation is efficient. Game sounds are crisp and appropriate, while the music lends solid accompaniment to the proceedings. The mood and ambiance are complete, and the atmosphere is truly engrossing.

Gameplay is simple point-and-click . All of the traditional adventure game puzzles are here: environmental, inventory, analytical, and tonal. The developer does not hide its love of truly old school gaming, and you will find yourself treated to (or burdened with, depending on your bent) interludes where you will have to play through a game like the arcade classic Space Invaders in order to continue on your adventure. In some cases, the homage is overdone, wherein the last throwback to a classic shooter you are tasked to play through runs much longer than any challenge it may have presented.

No matter how traditional this game may feel by adventure game standards, it also has a few notable deviations that can only be labeled as drawbacks. A particular design flaw comes in being able to find environmental hotspots. Generally, if the robot cannot physically reach an object, you will not be able to identify it as a target that you can manipulate. Even at his top speed, the protagonist is not the speediest robot. Sometimes, you will find clicking him to all points of a map to be a rather cumbersome exercise. Another design flaw is, perhaps, of Flash itself: right-clicking the mouse brings up Flash's own (rather than the game's) popup menu. While this may not sound like much of a distraction, adventure game veterans who are used to right-clicking to dismiss a held inventory object will thus be treated to the game stopping menu early and often. How much this annoys you will depend on how quickly you can learn to lay off the right mouse button.

Most of the game's puzzles fall into an intermediate level of difficulty—challenging enough to be fun to solve without threatening to drive you crazy. There are few exceptions. There have been a few times where, have I not felt obliged to continue, I may have decided the game has taken a little too much of my time by way of a puzzle's obtuse presentation. At the end of the day, your mileage will vary. It is unfair to say that the game is overly or unfairly difficult. Be prepared, however, to have your patience tested from time to time.

While Machinarium suffers from any real narrative drive and the occasional design hiccup, it flies a long way on its charm, atmosphere, and simplicity. You want the robot to succeed, even if you are unsure of what success your endeavor will bring. In the end, sometimes less is more, and in this case, it is something worth checking out.

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