Machinarium PSN review – Metallic puzzling with a devilish heart
I love a good arty puzzler with understated poignancy – Braid, for instance, is one of my favourite games of recent years. And they’re easy to love and to wax lyrical about: charming visuals, indie sensibilities and any number of allegorical interpretations, should you choose to seek them. These things can cover up for gameplay shortfalls: Limbo’s more about trial and error than actual puzzle-solving, but its looks and atmosphere papered over the cracks.
And so it is with Machinarium. It’s an undeniably beautiful game: hand-drawn visuals, a silent cast (each of which possesses an incredible amount of character), and fantastically detailed backgrounds upon which your mental exertions play out. And some of these are the equal of any puzzle game you care to name: multi-location brainteasers that require just the right balance of logical and lateral thinking, with the payoff from finding the correct solution satisfying in a manner that no amount of headshots can replicate. This is Machinarium’s brilliance.
Unfortunately it also falls victim of occasionally trying to be too brainy for its own good, and some puzzles drive you to distraction (or a walkthrough). Like when you’ve spent 30 minutes trying all plausible solutions only to discover than you didn’t realise you could click on a particular, crucial clump of dirt.
As you become more familiar with the game and learn its workings these instances are minimised, and the answers are almost always down to good thinking. But that ‘almost’ is crucial, as once the uncertainty creeps into your puzzle-solving mentality it can’t help but undermine the experience somewhat.
The controls are also sub-par, and no effort has been made to convert what worked with a mouse to a pad: you have to slowly scroll a cursor all the way to the top of the screen just to access your inventory. It may – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – have worked better with Move.
However, these things don’t stop Machinarium from being a brilliantly inventive, beautiful and tender experience. Just don’t let its looks blind you to its issues, like that smack-peddling glamour model you pursued at uni.