Review: Machinarium

JLrep

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May 8, 2009
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This review makes me think a bit. For the most part I agree with what it says, having myself played Machinarium, but I take exception at the tone. I think this dichotomy between art (or presentation) and gameplay is unjustified.

I think that to say that it's a game with great art ruined by poor gameplay, or a game with poor gameplay saved by great art, is not the best way of looking at it. That's treating them too differently. If we were talking about a game meant to be Prince of Persia or Castlevania, yes, the gameplay, that is, the mechanics of the game, are far and away the most important thing. But they're less important with Machinarium. I know, I know, gameplay > all, but maybe not.

Suppose we have a scale, on the one end of which are things that literally have no gameplay (a movie, a book), and on the other are games that are almost wholly gameplay (pure puzzle games, storyless shooters, "versus" fighting games). On the latter side, poor gameplay is damning; nothing could save Street Fighter if the controls were clunky, the action poorly timed. Most games are weighted to that end, but I think Machinarium is one that falls closer to the middle; the artwork and music (which cannot be praised enough; if you have any love for Wall-E, you'll love this protagonist) are really the main substance of the game.

It reminds me of playing Riven. While Myst really is pretty flawed, and not very interesting looking now that the novelty of 3D CGI has worn off, Riven is still a very beautiful and complete game. I found when I played it, though, that if I played it as a game, the way I play other games, it was insufferable; there was no action. I had to walk around a lot. The game did not give me information, but left me to find it myself. I enjoyed the game when I played as... something else. I don't have a precise word to use, but ultimately something between a game and a book. That is to say, Riven, despite being a fully-realized work, is less of a game than other games are, and so your input, the player's part, is less important than it is in other games. Riven is as much about looking and seeing as it is about playing and interacting.

I'd say the same of Machinarium. And for most point-and-clicks, actually. Though many point-and-clicks do manage to ruin themselves with poor gameplay, because many point-and-clicks are ridiculously difficult for anyone not a fanatic. Machinarium, I felt, did alright. It skirted the edges, but ultimately, accounting for the built-in hints, I never got stuck on one screen for more than a few minutes; though there was a bit of pixel-hunting, I really felt the whole time that the game was holding my hand.
 

Acidwell

Beware of Snow Giraffes
Jun 13, 2009
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I think the reviewer couldn't solve the puzzles without resorting to the walkthrough section. I think that shoot-em -up thing is a great idea since it stops you looking at the walkthrough the second you get stuck. I will admit that there are one or 2 tedious puzzles but overall its good fun IF you like point and click adventures.
 

Worgen

Follower of the Glorious Sun Butt.
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Whatever, just wash your hands.
the problem with this review is that it sounds like the reviewer doesnt really like point and click games, if you dont then machinarium wont change your mind
 

drummond13

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Apr 28, 2008
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I couldn't disagree more. The game's design is excellent and clearly very well thought out. Maybe you just don't play puzzle games all that often? They were all logical to me.

@ Suskie: "People who make games like this have missed the point of gaming entirely?" Are you serious? There's a whole GENRE of games like this. I don't like sports games and don't play them. But just because I don't like them I don't go around saying people who make sports games have missed the point of gaming. Seriously.
 

Taum

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Apr 15, 2009
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I disagree with almost everything about this review. Yes turning the clock hands is a bit of a pain but pixel hunting, not knowing what is going on, etc is not something that i had any problem with. I mean:

"For example, there is no way of distinguishing what might be a useful item"
I take it you mean "no way to highlight useable items so you don't have to bother looking" because once you've talked to the robots you know what sort of things you need and it's then just a matter of looking for them. Need the buttons on the saxaphone, look around and you see them on the game board for example. I never had to pixel hunt, the only item i had problems with was the fly paper as i wasn't sure what it was.

"I wasn't entirely sure whether the girl robot depicted in the protagonist's memories was supposed to be his girlfriend or his sister or just a friend"
Does it matter? It's a female robot he cares about and the game gets that across just fine, the exact relation to the main character does not matter any more than the age of your character does.

"getting the right time makes a guard come out of his tower so you can head up and have a look. Could I tell you why this happens? No, it just does."
Eh? There's symbols on the wall that tell you at what time each robot goes into the church and it's rather obvious that you need to get into the control tower.

"Machinarium's walkthrough has to get a special mention as possibly the least useful example of a walkthrough I've ever seen. Like the hint function, it will only show you the walkthrough for the particular screen that you're on"
How many games have in-game walkthroughs of any kind? Machinarium has a method to get a bit of help on each screen. If you need more help than that you can look it up on the internet like you have to do in most games. I don't see how a game not have an in-depth walkthrough is a negative.

"In fact, it might be a good idea to take notes anyway, because the game forces you to play an absolutely dire shoot-em-up each and every time you want to check a page."
It's an incredibly easy shooter that is there do dissuade you from looking up the hint as soon as you get stuck. As for having to take notes is it really that hard to remember the solution to a simple puzzle? Not that i see what is wrong with taking notes (i had to do it in Sherlock Holmes versus Arsene Lupin due to the complexity of some of the puzzles).

Your main complaints seem to be that the game does not tell you what to do or what to pick up but since this is easily solved by talking to characters, looking and thinking i strongly disagree that this is due to poor game design but is rather due to a poor player.
 

Kollega

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Jun 5, 2009
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Worgen said:
the problem with this review is that it sounds like the reviewer doesnt really like point and click games, if you dont then machinarium wont change your mind
Well... yeah. That's the problem, i think. Machinarium's background is to be observed, not for splattering enemies against.

I cannot understand the world anymore. First people complain that games are too easy and it's always obvious what to do. When you give them a classic point-and-click adventure, they complain it's too hard and counter-intuitive.
 

Bad Cluster

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Nov 22, 2009
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Taum said:
Couldn't have said it better than this.
Reviews should be written by people who are familiar with the topic genre at least, if that is not the case they are misleading to others who will miss out on a great game as a result.
There is a demo for Machinarium, if you are interested in it, play it, don't go by this review.

Kollega said:
Well... yeah. That's the problem, i think. Machinarium's background is to be observed, not for splattering enemies against.

I cannot understand the world anymore. First people complain that games are too easy and it's always obvious what to do. When you give them a classic point-and-click adventure, they complain it's too hard and counter-intuitive.
Quotes Yahtzee: Fans are....
Yeah, not really appropriate for this case, but that's the first thing that came to my mind.
 

osmosisch

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Jul 16, 2009
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I really disagree with this review. It just strikes me as lazy in every respect. Many of the comments of hte reviewer show that they approached the game not as something to think about, which strikes me as rather silly considering it's a puzzle game.

They were even too lazy to check the spelling of the previous games by the same studio (they're called SamOrost, not SamArost.
Very disappointing, I expect better from this site.
 

Logan Westbrook

Transform, Roll Out, Etc
Feb 21, 2008
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osmosisch said:
They were even too lazy to check the spelling of the previous games by the same studio (they're called SamOrost, not SamArost.
Not laziness, a typo. Thanks for picking it up.
 

Outlaw Torn

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Dec 24, 2008
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The plot sounds somewhat similar to Wall.E, robot left to his own devices amongst scrap and eventually goes on a mission to get with the hot robo-chick.
 

Swaki

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Apr 15, 2009
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well, i must say i agree on some of it, but i just noticed it now, i was so completely blown off my feats and sucked into the game that i never noticed these things, it did annoy the shit out of me towards the end especially with the very last puzzle which where an "music" puzzle, you had to remember a series of almost identical sounding notes and then go to another room to press them in, i used the in game guide book on most screens.

but, it is beautiful and the music is fantastic, i actually downloaded the soundtrack "illegally" (only available in the Russian boxed version) and the story and characters, while simple, all fitted right in there in all the beauty and kept me interested, its only 5-6 hours long but it stayed with me for months, i still listen to the soundtrack once in awhile and have some of the artwork as my desktop background, the gameplay maybe is a bit primitive and rusty but it fits in.

i agree that you shouldn't buy it for the puzzles and the gameplay, but you should buy it, its cheaper and easier than walking on the great wall, riding true the ruins of ancient Greece, hiking on snow filled mountains or go to Greenland and see the northern lights, and its more breath taking ,awe inspiring and memorable than all of them.

especially walking on the great wall, i was so tired, sweaty and dehydrated after walking all those stairs.
 

The Dane

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Dec 16, 2009
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Wow, I'm sorry that review was written for all the people it might deter from playing a delightful little game. My wife and I played it together over her Christmas break, pulling chairs close so she could help direct while I pointed and clicked. The little robot and its story were so evocative that every night, an hour before bed one of us would say, "Oh! Do you want to play with our little robot friend?" He was so cute and lovable and determined and ingenious that we couldn't help but fall in love with him and worry for his plight against terrorist/bullies.

The puzzles were all satisfying and none of them were difficult enough to actually touch the hint feature (so I can't really comment on this shooter thing that's being talked about). There were so many great scenes and the way the memories played out in thought balloons was fantastic.

Perhaps a reviewer who enjoys puzzle/adventure games would have made a better choice for a reviewer. This was my favourite since Grim Fandango. Visually spectacular, fun puzzles, indelible characters, and a nice little storyline.
 

AntiAntagonist

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Apr 17, 2008
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I agree with some of this review- item/verb visual design was hard to notice inside a screen full of steampunk gadgets, there were puzzles that were made awkward by implementation, etc.

Overall I enjoyed this game, despite getting stuck at points.

Looking into the details to suss out what was happening was a side game unto itself.
For example:
The clock puzzle mentioned in the article chimed calls to prayer depending on the time the player set. There was a Jewish robot, a Muslim robot and a robot practicing its own in-game religion. These could be discerned by the symbols next to each graffiti clock combination and the visual design of each robot.
The visual design also shows decay & chaos as themes, and that is reflected much in the way that the city and plot are setup. It made me wonder if the city was always that bad or if much of it happened recently.
 

beema

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Aug 19, 2009
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Mostly in agreement with this review.

What I found to be most annoying about the game was its consistency (or lack thereof).

Essentially, it's a point-n-click, with the only things impeding your progress being various room-escape puzzles (to boil it down).

The puzzles however, feel completely random in their difficulty, and progression.

Some solutions are based on logic. Others are based on trial-and-error. Some require you to be so exact in your actions that the only way one could solve them on the first playthrough is by reading a walkthrough.

One particularly frustrating one for me was the Tic Tac Toe game you have to play. Other than simply playing it over and over and over until you finally get it right, there's no real way of passing it. I watched a solution video on youtube and still had to perform it several times due to randomization. I can't think of any other specific examples because it's been a while since I played, but they are there for sure.

Another thing that confounded me more than once were the actual items you needed to use to solve some puzzles. Since none of the items you collect are labeled, often times you will find yourself dragging them onto everything on the screen to see if they work or not. I had no idea what one object was that turned out to be a strip of fly paper. I walked back and forth through several screens of the game clicking on everything until I finally consulted a walkthrough, simply because I had no idea what the object in my inventory actually was.
 

Kethlak

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Dec 26, 2008
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Part of the problem with this game is that since you can only interact with objects close to you, you can't just mouse over the whole screen to see what is clickable. And I think the biggest issue I had with the game is that, from playing the demo, it looks like a straightforward adventure game, and then when I bought and played with the game they threw all of these really difficult puzzles at me.
 

N3Burgener

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Feb 10, 2010
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Seeing the news article about Machinarium coming to WiiWare prompted me to reconsult this review. I'm not happy with it, because it's heavily biased in its presentation and is far too assumptive in its recommendations.

"This deficit of information also makes many of the puzzles seem arbitrary." -- Logan Westbrook
That's exactly how I feel about this review; your overall tone and deficit of objective information make many of your criticisms seem arbitrary.

A good review is structured around objective observations about how the game works; what is the game trying to accomplish, how does it try to do this, does it succeed in its attempts? The idea is that a reviewer describes what the game is about and how it functions so that a reader can take the objective information and decide---for themselves---whether the game is worth it.

(Disclaimer: reviews are never entirely objective, because subjectivity always plays a certain role. However, personal impressions should NEVER be the crux of a review.)

This review reads less like an objective evaluation and more like a personal crusade. The opening line sets the stage for the entire piece: "Have you ever had a game that you really, really wanted to like, but just couldn't? Machinarium is such a game." Excuse me? You're telling me what I like in games? You're telling me that I wouldn't be able to like Machinarium? You're immediately making assumptions about me and about the game? And you haven't even described the game yet? This is so pretentious that it almost immediately discredits the entirety of the review.

Others before me have already made specific criticisms about specific instances within the review, so I'll just summarize and reiterate this: it sounds like many of your complaints are personal problems, which you blame entirely on the game. Several of these instances (if not all) just don't make any sense, as if you clearly misunderstood the game and/or imposed your own gaming misconceptions onto the rest of us.

"I'd even go so far as to say that people who make games like these have missed the point of gaming entirely." -- user comment
I was unaware that there was a singular "point" to gaming. It was my impression that, like EVERYTHING in life, different people play games for different reasons and different people like different things in video games. I'd go so far as to say that people who talk about gaming like you have missed the point of Machinarium entirely. You see, it goes both ways; it's extremely naive and immature to believe/declare that every game should conform to your personal standards and expectations.

Machinarium can be a delightful game if you take it for what it is, instead of complaining about what it isn't. The user below describes the phenomenon quite well, and I think accurately describes how the reviewer (Mr Westbrook) could give such a poor evaluation of the game:

"I found when I played it, though, that if I played it as a game, the way I play other games, it was insufferable; there was no action. I had to walk around a lot. The game did not give me information, but left me to find it myself. I enjoyed the game when I played it as... something else." -- user comment (in reference to Riven)
 

Corpse XxX

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Jan 19, 2009
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Tss... I do not agree with reviewer..

Machinarium is an amazing game, the thing that bothered me the most is that it is a bit short.

The no dialogue just makes the game more special, when they just use noises and expressions instead of talking.

I would rate this game a 9/10..

But if you dont like point and click adventure, than this is not for you anyway..
 

JohnTomorrow

Green Thumbed Gamer
Jan 11, 2010
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Shrewsbury said:
I think this reviewer needs to learn some patience.
Having just bought and played some of this game on my tablet for a few hours, I'm safe to agree with you.

I concede I would not have paid a full twenty dollars for this, but I'm loving every minute of it. I like that things are not spelled out for you, that the answer does not come after a minute of musing - some of the puzzles are quite elegant in their design. Ashamedly, I did have to use the hintbook a few times, but it was after seeing the answers that I realised that, in the world's perspective, they made perfect sense. It was not the games fault, it was my fault for not thinking it through.

Not everything needs to be flip-switch simple. Sometimes you need to turn a crank for a few extra seconds in order to get the desired results. A game should be challenging, and for a point and click, mentally so.