A few years ago, Jakub Dvorsky released his first “instant classic” game called Samorost. Soon after that Samorost 2 was released to frustrate and challenge us even more. Both games enjoyed tremendous success.
Then came Machinarium. I have written of Machinarium before but got given the box set this Christmas. (It is also availabe on line).
A few hours in Machinarium‘s mysterious steampunk landscape could compared with the other activity I am challenged with at the mo: clearing out the loft, and garage! They share similar qualities. Rummaging through piles of discarded “junk” to locate the “answers” and ending up with a head ache, but a glowing feeling of satisfaction with a problem solved.
Machinarium is the tale of “an adorable little robot, cast out from a mechanical city by accident”. He must find his way back home, rescue his girlfriend and prevent a gang of robot thugs from setting off a bomb.
To begin with, you join our mini mechanical hero on a one-screen voyage. A conveyor belt of small brain teasing chunks.
As we progress, we are challenged by multiple screens, piling on top of one another like layers in a 3D Noughts and Crosses. It IS hard, and therefore potentially hugely frustrating but…
You get very little help in your travels as, unlike other “point-and-click” games, where as you “mouse over” everything on-screen, you see what can be interacted with, Machinarium only lets you interact and fiddle with things that are “within reach”.
Our robot pal is bendy and malleable, able to crumple down to ground level or expand upwards to reach higher contraptions. This means that you need to stretch and contort to reach every possible location and hidden nook in order to solve the problems
There is, I am relieved to tell you, a two-level hint system available. A lightbulb logo gives you a first clue as to what you should be trying to do. It is just a hint though!
If that is leaving you frustrated, it is also possible to have a read of a walkthrough book, a superb sepia-toned comic strip. You’ve got to win that privilege though, by completing a quick mini game getting a key through a cave to a distant key hole. Not exactly the most challenging element of the game, but it does encourage you to stop and think “hang on! Do I really need this hint?” I am not sure whether all the walkthrough has been added either.
I have to say that, this is such a surreal experience and you would need to have a VERY warped mind to be able to complete all of these challenges rationally, and it is therfore not everybody’s cup of tea but well worth a look at with a group of children to guide you through the most ilogical elements.
Another case of where “I don’t know what to do Sir!” “Press this this one”
has now transmuted into “I don’t know what to do!” “Sir! Press this one”
Whilst Machinarium is set in a wasteland of mechanical mystery, it does share some of the warmth of tones and colours with my favourite childhood cartoon, Ivor The Engine.
Some of our trying it out group, likened it to a more up to date cartoon: Wall-E and I can see why.
p.s. if you do get hooked and don’t clear out YOUR loft… please don’t blame me.
Addendum: Thank you to Rob Evans, Headteacher at Hoddern Junior School, for the nudge towards this article from Kenny Pieper in the Guardian about how a class of previously disengaged students produced some fantastic work in their English lessons, in response to Machinarium.
Category: 2) Useful n Interesting