Over the years, developers have made all kinds of attempts to add flare and panache to simple games so that they can be more immersive and fun than straight-up problem-solving. The difficulty a lot of point-and-click puzzle games face is the ability to find the middle-ground between where the user can get the ball rolling quickly by solving easier parts of the puzzle, but then also making the game tough enough to maintain interest. It’s a tough balance and one that’s been struck by the gorgeously designed Machinarium.
The point-and-click system works well alongside the charming graphics
In this clever Flash-based game you have to take your robot, Josef, from the scrapheap he is dumped on, and make your way into the city to defeat the Black Cap Brotherhood and save your robot girlfriend. It sounds simple enough. The game engine is very clever, working entirely without words. This makes the thought process far more visual from the outset, and the limitations of the puzzle engine actually make the game stronger.
The developers, Amanita Design, conspire to make the point-and-click nature of the puzzles limited to the immediate reach of Josef, so you’ll need to be close to the things you wish to interact with. This prevents futile clicking here, there and everywhere. Should you need it, there is a non-verbal hint and, if you get really stuck, you can always view a level walkthrough… by completing a stunningly hard mini-game. You do get to use props in an inventory, and these can be combined to solve the problems at hand. For instance, in the first level you must combine a rope and a magnet to complete the level.
Overall, this is a really charming game. The animation, scenes and sounds are all very cool and they draw you into the puzzle in a way that’s not too childish, nor too abstract. The most interesting element for us was the lack of words throughout; it really does strike you dumb and send your eyes into overdrive for visual clues that will help unlock each puzzle, piece by piece. For the price you will get your money’s worth of exhilaration and frustration in equal measure. An immersive tale that keeps you thinking from start to finish.