Machinarium was released in 2009, it's a fairly new game but one that you probably haven't heard of. It was developed by a small Czechoslovakian company, they specialise in flash games and had small releases before Machinarium came out. It's a point and click game and is deceptively hard, but what makes this one different from all those other generic point and click games out there? Well two main things are the length of the game and the art direction. It's a good length game with puzzles at every corner. I frequently had to look for web help in order past the most of it, for me it reminds me a lot of Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy text game. That game was infuriatingly hard and to pass the game you have to think of the obvious but this is thrown out the window when you enter space and normal rules no longer apply. Machinarium is like that in a sense but it has the visual stimulation to keep you playing the game and not throw your keyboard out the window.
The story revolves around this little robot who has no name and can't talk. So how does the audience relate. Well firstly he is extremely cute but he communicates to us by showing us memories. As in many games there is the hero who has to go save the princess from evil, Machinarium takes this and changes it a bit. Symbolism or personification is an approach that uses objects or animals as the main characters instead of them always being human. So instead to make them more believable they are giving human traits. In Machinarium the protagonist is given a girlfriend, emotions and a task, to go rescue her from bullies, you'll also see if you leave him for a moment he will think of the times he spent with her in the mechanical world.
This game has a lot of character, the environmental back drops are beautiful and its style is so quirky, I don't think there is a single straight line in it. The colours are all quiet desaturated to give this look of a rusty and mechanical city. The game is linear for example you can explore but you might need a key to get to the next area in which you will find if you go the correct way. So it directs you through the level with items like many games do.
As an artist I obviously had a good rummage on the web to get a hold of the art for the game and I find it inspirational. Below you see the sketches these are beautiful that I only wish I could do, you see they are trying to portray scenes and going through the design process. They are probably only quick 10 minute sketches but that's all they needed to get an idea of what they wanted.
As well as this the artists did a walk through of the game, normally these are done in text but with Machinarium they have used art to depict what you have to do, these are so awesome, they are trying to stray from any text as they could and this is what make this game different. The art direction is very strong and it hold the hold game together from the ambient sounds to make it feel like an actual world to the art book walkthrough that is in the style of the game itself.
The game plays well, apart from it being quite hard and is definitely a game I would recommend everyone to play. In saying this I do have a high tolerance for games that are different and I end up being determined to complete them, whether they are good or bad, hard or easy. I love different and this is where I love stylized games over realistic as they are more visually interesting to me and I get a lot more enjoyment from them. The niche market of gaming has always interested me and I do go on to flash websites to play the odd game every now and then as they are just purely to waste time and have fun, nothing else. Games these days have too much focus on achievements and making everything real and this is where they fail to do the simple thing of making the game fun. Machinarium is not only fun but it presents itself as a kids game because it is cute and look easy, a misconception about point and click games, its visual style appeals to everyone and the protagonist has character. It may be a robot that can't talk but it has more character to him than any playable avatar in COD, Gears or War or any other generic shooter game out there. Below is a trailer off the game, you can try out the first three levels on their website so do go check it out; http://machinarium.net/demo/