15
May
unnamed

If you haven't heard of Machinarium, you probably aren't much of a PC gamer. That's not mean to be some kind of "high and mighty" insult - it's just the truth. Machinarium is a small indie game that was released for PCs and Macs back in September of 2009, developed by Czech studio Amanita Design. It won numerous awards as indie game of the year, as well as accolades for its astounding artwork and soundtrack.

unnamed

It's a game I think almost anyone can play and love (and hate, but that comes with the territory), which is saying a lot for a click-and-explore puzzle title. Much as Portal made the idea of a first-person environmental puzzle shooter wildly popular, Machinarium has brought back from the grave the gameplay of popular titles like Myst - the single most frustrating series of games in the universe.

But where Myst's typically-1990's insanity level of difficulty made it a popular niche title among a few PC gamers and puzzle-solving masochists, Machinarium is a much more friendly, forgiving sort of experience. With the help of a compelling (some might even say "cute") story, truly beautiful visuals (this game is drawn, not "rendered"), and an original electronic score that rivals the Half Life 2 soundtrack, Machinarium is a game you can't help but become engrossed in.

But why? Before we delve into that question, let's go over a few more practical concerns.

Playing Machinarium On Android

If this game shows up as compatible with your phone, it's playing a cruel joke on you. Trying to solve Machinarium's puzzles (or pick up its often ridiculously-tiny objects) on a phone screen, even with something the size of a Galaxy Note, would be almost impossible beyond the first few, simple tasks. I had trouble clicking on things on my 10.1" tablet at times for a lack of size, so a 5.3" phone would presumably cause twice the level of frustration with that problem.

Because Machinarium was originally designed to be played with a mouse on PCs, strike zones for actions and objects are extremely small. Annoyingly so, at times. I suggest using a Bluetooth Android-compatible mouse if you have one, or the trackpad if you have a Transformer with a keyboard dock.

I played through the whole game using only touch, so it's definitely possible, but there were times I wanted a mouse - badly. As far as stability is concerned, the game never crashed. Switching apps did cause it to reset every time, though, so save often, lest you lose your precious progress.

Beyond these minor issues, Machinarium played perfectly on my Transformer Prime (there was one time when a particular sound file wouldn't play back, but it worked upon reentering the affected zone). So, let's get onto the game itself.

The Game

Machinarium wants you to solve its riddles. It wants to make you laugh. It wants you take a moment and just gaze at the beautiful land and soundscapes its creators have sculpted. It's more than a game - it's an experience.

You don't have to be into puzzle or hidden object games (I'm certainly not) to like it. You don't even have to like video games in the first place, if I'm honest. Just look at this screenshot:

Screenshot_2012-05-11-18-31-00

Aren't you already curious? Is that a robot street band, next to a robot tavern? Why is there a loudspeaker and an uprooted piece of shrubbery in my inventory? It's all so random and out of context. And that's what makes Machinarium so interesting - it constantly has you guessing exactly what is going on.

The story is simple, but vague enough (in the beginning) to keep you going. You want to know where the game is headed, and for a while, you're just not sure. You're a disassembled robot trying to get into a gated metropolis, and it's not clear why. I'm not going to go into the story any more, because it's half of the fun of the game. Just know that it will keep you engrossed, giggling, and curious throughout.

Screenshot_2012-05-11-17-15-20

Screenshot_2012-05-11-18-02-29 Screenshot_2012-05-11-18-57-39

The artwork you're seeing above is also just undeniably beautiful. Someone took hours of care to build every frame of this little world, and it shows. It's such a fantastical and dreamy place - like something out of a Tim Burton film. The music is just icing on the cake.

But let's get down to gameplay - why is Machinarium more than just some pretty artwork and electronic music cued to a point-and-click puzzle game? When I said Machinarium wants you to solve its puzzles, I wasn't kidding - you can actually finish the game in a day with relative ease if you're persistent. This can be done by utilizing the little "help" tome on the bottom right of the screen.

Screenshot_2012-05-11-18-20-25

Each time you open the book, you're forced to participate in a Game & Watch-style mini-game that eats up roughly 30 seconds of your time and attention. At the end, you're rewarded with a "map" of how to solve all the puzzles in a particular scene of the game. Intensely detailed diagrams will show you exactly what to do, and in what order. Some would say this is like "cheating." I'd call it mercy. If you choose to forego the "hint book" for the entirety of the game, I imagine it would take you weeks to beat Machinarium. Some of the puzzles are incredibly unobvious.

Then again, I'm not a puzzle/hidden-object guru, so maybe for the Myst-faithful, this is child's play. Anyway, each time you're given a "map" to solve the puzzles in an area, once you close it, you have to play the mini-game to see it again. This forces you to remember as much as possible of the diagrams, and discourages you from abusing the privilege too heavily. If you're lazy, you could always screenshot them and upload them through DropSnap or something similar, but I'm going to assume you're all good sports.

This is what makes the game so accessible, though - without the hint book, I'd have given up on Machinarium in 30 minutes. I'm not terribly patient with puzzles, nor are most people. But using the hint book doesn't "ruin" the game - you still have that sense of curiosity and pleasure each time you advance further in the story. It's really quite rewarding.

I would call Machinarium a puzzle game for people who hate puzzle games, but it's also a game for people who love them - there's really something for everyone here. You'll find it on the Play Store for $4, and you'd be silly not to pick it up (compared to $10 on PC/Mac).

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Andrea Rossi

    And now, I'll sit here, playing Machinarium, waiting for Botanicula on Android!

  • TheWhiteLotus

    I definitely think it's an awesome game, but it has issues. It doesn't display fullscreen on my Galaxy Nexus, and it's stuck in portrait mode, even though it looks like it's in landscape. Second, the gameplay doesn't make any logical sense. They aren't puzzles. I often find myself just randomly dropping object on things, since they don't give you any actual problem to solve. It's almost totally random.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      It's simply not meant for phones. The game is impossible to play on anything smaller than a 7" tablet, IMO.

      • CeluGeek

        :ChallengeAccepted:
        I'm going to try Machinarium on my Captivate Glide. If I fail, I still have a Galaxy Tab 10.1 where to play it. :)

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Can you even install it on that phone? I don't think you can, at least not from the Play Store.

  • guyfromtrinidad

    You forgot to add its $5 for iOS. I really want this game to sell well on Android as supporting games like this and don't bitch about how short it is you are buying an experience, hey the song the band plays when you get back their instruments is worth the $4 alone. The developers have also said a fix is on the way for the small strike zones. As someone already said we want them to bring their next fantastic game (which is way more forgiving) Botanicula to Android 

  • andrew zavala

    I wish I could download it on my device :(

    • http://twitter.com/kpjimmy Jim L

       What device do you have? Anything lower than a 7 inch tablet is not recommended. I just side loaded the apk to my rooted Kindle Fire and works fine.

      • andy hajek

        works beautifully on my Galaxy Note

      • Kevin Dahlstrom

        I want to purchase the app, however, I want to put it on my Kindle Fire as well. Where did you get the APK? Again, I am willing to pay, just cant find a way to save the APK so I can sideload it. Thanks!

  • Himmat Singh

    Isn't the 'beauty' of this game over-hyped? 

  • Dbagjones

    So knowing about/playing this makes someone a PC gamer? Hardly.

  • http://twitter.com/kpjimmy Jim L

    It's a great time waster, with the artwork resembling world of goo :). I played it for a bit and works well on android. I have seen it on ipad and it is pretty indeed.

  • Flibbertigibbety

    You can plug a USB mouse into the Galaxy Note via OTG cable, or pair it with a Bluetooth mouse.

  • Bwain

    And guess what, does not work on the galaxy s2

    • cozappz

      Unfortunately, yes. Man, and I really wanted this on my SGS2.

    • awakened

      for my Galaxy S2 it works flawlessly but I can't touch the inventory and menu buttons :( they appear to be out of screen...

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Ee/100000726601304 Jeremy Ee

    Woah.. the art looks stunningly good. I'm kinda a fan of the detailed sketchy look. But sadly, we need to pay for the game. I would have downloaded it from Applorer https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.movend.gamebox2 if it were a free game.

  • Mcrto

    I don't understand why you say about it being impossible to play even on a Galaxy Note. I just bought and played through it in the last few days and it works perfectly using the note stylus.