Monday, December 4, 2023

A little indie game called Machinarium



My opinions on computer gaming and some of my favorite games. I've been playing games on the home computer since the days of the Trash 80. I love indie, open-world, unique, puzzle, and resource games. The cake is a lie.

I was first introduced to this game by a friend back in 2009, and immediately loved it.

It features an adorable little robot named Josef who’s trying to save his girlfriend Berta from the Black Cap Brotherhood gang, a bunch of bad robots who seem to have taken over his city.

The game starts with Josef being dropped into the scrapyard from a passing ship, missing some parts. Through thought bubbles and helpful visual cues, the game shows you how the robot can retrieve his leg, and even tie a magnet to a string to fish out his arm from the river below.

You get the impression from flashbacks (conveyed by little animations in thought bubbles) that the robot once had a happier life with his friend. Now your goal is to help the robot defeat the bad robots, find his friend, and help his little robot city get back to normal.

It features hand-drawn elements and backgrounds. The artist said that his usual artistic style was too clean and looked like computer renderings, and the designers of the game really wanted hand-drawn illustrations. So, he drew them all with his left hand! It gives the game a grungy ‘handmade’ feel, unlike many of the slicker-looking games of today.

The music is composed by Floex and contributes to the game’s wistful, almost sad atmosphere. It combines traditional orchestral instruments with industrial sounds.

Visually it’s a masterpiece. It’s completely different from any other game, and still stands out as one of the more unique puzzle games, even today.

Typical point and click puzzle games (what I think of as Myst-style games) are a series of static backgrounds with clickable areas, so if the player is feeling particularly lazy, they just wave the mouse arrow around until it turns into a hand. Not so with this game. The puzzles force you to use your logic skills and do a little thinking outside of the box. Collecting and combining objects is important to solving some of the puzzles in the game. There’s a wide variety of puzzles, some of which I’ve encountered in other games, and some that are completely new ideas. It’s difficult to think of new puzzles, but Amanita Designs manages to come up with some challenging ones.

I think one of the best things about it Is that it’s a casual game. No time pressure. No violence. Great soundtrack. Perfect for a Saturday morning with a cup of coffee.

Check out Machinarium on the Steam platform, developed and published by Amanita Design. Machinarium has won the Aesthetics award at IndieCade, the Excellence in Visual Art award at the 12th Annual Independent Games Festival, and the Best Soundtrack award from PC Gamer in 2009. It was nominated for an Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction award by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and a Milthon award in the 'Best Indie Game' category at the Paris Game Festival.

Amanita Design is a Czech independent studio best known for puzzle adventure games. Other games they have produced include Samorost, Botanicula, CHUCHEL, Pilgrims, Creaks and most recently Happy Game. I’ve played almost all of them, (except Happy Game) and enjoyed them immensely. They’re also kid-friendly. My son has played Botanicula and CHUCHEL and loved them both.

There’s a free playable demo on the Steam gaming platform, and you can view a preview trailer on It’s an oldie but a goodie. If you’ve never played Machinarium and you like puzzle games, you’re in for a treat.