The point and click adventure game was a staple of the PC gaming landscape; you’d never bat an eyelid that the next big release would be a humour filled adventure with fiendish puzzles instead of explosive action and a wardrobe of incredibly similar guns. Yes, over the years the genre has diminished as gamers demanded better graphics and instant gratification instead. Luckily though that’s starting to change.
Thanks in part to a resurgence of Lucasarts’ classics getting revisited courtesy of software like ScummVM and Residual, along with Tim Schafer announcing a Kickstarter for a new adventure title, the point and click adventure is seeing a healthy return to form. Today’s ‘Have You Played’ takes a look at an absolutely fantastic, and underappreciated, entry into the genre that’s just launched on PSN for PS3.
Although it may have just released on Sony’s home console, it’s also set to arrive on PS Vita at some point soon – which would be perfect for a point and click title. Machinarium – the title in question – did actually release back on PC, Mac and Linux in 2009, and has been available on iOS for a fair while now, partly why this isn’t a review. Having been created by the minds behind the rather excellent browser based adventure Samorost and it’s downloadable sequel Samorost 2, those who know such titles already know that Machinarium is going to be something truly special.
Amanita Design’s robot themed title doesn’t contain the thrills and spills and comedic elements that you see in Tim Schafer’s games, but even without using any dialogue at all they manage to bring an entire world to life. You’ll want to explore Machinarium rather than just working through it to complete the story. Each characters action and your interactions within the world make you instantly curious as to what could happen next. You’ll find a wrench creation that just loves to get down to some bass filled funk music; a set of dastardly mob members who like nothing more than a quiet game of poker; an extractor fan that hates it when you can’t work out your trivia, and all of this is done without a single word being uttered: it certainly says a lot about Amanita’s talent in creating characters.
Seeing as nobody talks and there are no written words – except for some instructions at the start – the story is told entirely through your actions and some scripted events, and if you wait around long enough you’ll see some thought bubbles detailing the past of your character. Going into exactly what the plot is would ruin the joy of discovery that you’ll find in Machinarium, but ultimately it’s a tale of love and companionship as a little robot tries desperately to get back to the life he once had in the city.
Just like the Samorost games, Machinarium’s art style is absolutely fantastic. Everything seems to be hand drawn and animations have the same storybook feel to them. Expressions on such simple robot faces ooze charm and you’ll find it hard to not fall in love with your robot protagonist as he stretches and shrinks to find clues and solve puzzles – even the flashback thought bubbles have a childlike style to them evoking feelings that all he ever wants are the simple pleasures in life. The world itself seems to be composed of a scrapheap of metal and nuts and bolts, creating these makeshift and rag-tag robot creations that all seem so real – it’s almost Isaac Asimov meets Phillip K. Dick in design.
Complimenting the wonderful efforts from the art department is the audio design, something that can only really be described as sublime. Soft background music and the ambient sounds of the environment around you really create an immersive and believable world that you want to explore. Certain areas and set pieces create even more musical moments to enjoy, such as the aforementioned funk music, some jazzy street band music and the sound of retro gaming all help forge memorable moments. Even the annoying ‘nuh uh’ sound that your robot buddy makes when he can’t do something is sweet and adds to his character.
Obviously Machinarium still features those infuriating moments that any point and click adventure contains, especially some of the puzzles with incredibly obtuse solutions, but those moments rarely sully your enjoyment. Its Trophy support is also a little lame, meaning that while you may want to jump right back in and play again, you have little incentive to until you’ve forgotten the solutions.
Seeing as it’s been around for three years on computers and iOS you can probably pick it up for a rather affordable price, it’s also currently free on PSN for PS+ users so you have no reason to not pick it up if you hold a subscription. Amanita Design have really created an utterly fantastic game for you to enjoy, and it’s most certainly worth your time picking it up to find a solid few hours of delightfully fun gameplay.