RECENTLY my girlfriend and I moved in with my parents, as bathroom renovations at our place left us keen to stay elsewhere. Desperate to take at least one console with me for the roughly two week stay, I decided the day before leaving that I’d bring my PS3 Super Slim, as I’ve been on a PS3-era nostalgia binge since roughly the start of this year.
As I downloaded games onto the system to play during my stay, I stumbled across Machinarium, a point-and-click adventure by Czech Developer Amanita Design.
Machinarium was a game I’d played originally on PS3 back in 2012, as the game was included as a PlayStation Plus freebie less than a week after its console launch, in the forgotten era in which PlayStation Plus wasn’t required to play games online, instead providing its other benefits such as “free” games and PlayStation Store discounts. Despite releasing in September 2012 on the PlayStation 3, Machinarium had existed in the video game ether for almost three years prior, releasing on Windows, OS X, and Linux in 2009, iPad 2 and BlackBerry Playbook (never heard of it) in 2011 and to Android devices in 2012. Amanita Design initially aimed to debut the game on console via the Xbox 360, but Microsoft decided not to publish the game on its Xbox Live Arcade service because it wasn’t an Xbox exclusive, a move that saw Amanita Design pivot to the Sony platform. A Wii version was also made to launch on Nintendo Wii’s Wiiware service, but it was ultimately cancelled.
Anyhow, I recall playing the game for maybe 15 minutes before putting it down and presumably forgetting about it amongst the myriad of Call of Duty multiplayer matches and other games I used to play as a teenager. According to my trophies unlocked from around the time I obtained Machinarium’s first trophy, I was playing other titles such as Borderlands, Motorstorm Apocalypse, LittleBigPlanet, all titles that I spent countless hours playing through.
Although I’d already been enamoured by quintessential indie hits like Limbo, Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, and Fez, I for whatever reason never gave Machinarium the time of day again until nearly a decade later. In short, it was a decision I’m so happy to have made.
Machinarium for the uninitiated is an adventure inspired heavily by the point and click journeys of yesteryear, placing you in charge of a cute robot named Josef. From the scrapyard you initially find him in to the city you aim to save, you must guide Josef through it all by using your brain to solve a myriad of involved and sometimes infuriating puzzles.
Despite initially playing on my own, the experience of Machinarium, although single player by definition, quickly saw everyone in the household offering their opinion on what needed to be done to complete each puzzle. In typical point and click game fashion, most of the guesses and theories were wrong, but when they were correct it was magical and sent the room into a frenzy.
Although some moments were obtuse and frustrating given how convoluted some of the solutions were, Machinarium’s in-game walkthrough provided satisfying solace amidst trying times. Posed ever so beautifully in the top right corner of the screen is the walkthrough button, which when pressed requires you to beat a simple 8-bit mini-game in order to unlock its juicy contents. Better yet is that the contents of the walkthrough are more of a rough guideline than they are a blatant explanation, ensuring that finding the solution still feels satisfying despite the helping hand. I wish I could say that I didn’t need the walkthrough as much as I did, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use it a few times.
Machinarium can be a slow experience at times, as you traipse back and forth between areas, finding the items needed to progress. Thankfully the game exudes style with its visuals and atmosphere. Machinarium’s Tim Burton-esque aesthetic is paired amazingly alongside a soundtrack packed with atmospheric ambient excellence. The gameplay of Machinarium is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the visuals and soundtrack that will stay with me for years to come. The soundtrack has already found itself added to my Spotify work tunes playlist and has been on repeat since I finished the game a week ago.
Upon rolling credits on Machinarium, it was evident to me how much I loved the game. It did make me annoyed and desperate for help in moments, but that only ever made me more engaged and determined to find the solution and feel the satisfaction when the pieces fell into place. It didn’t just have its hooks in me either, but my family as well, making the journey through Machinarium a shared experience that I can look back on fondly. It’s a beautiful experience that reminds me why I went to University to study Computer Science and Games Technology in the first place, which was to make games as transportive and lovely as this.
Amanita Design had a hit with Machinarium, and over a decade on from initially dabbling with it for a few minutes, I know now how wrong I was to put it down. I wasn’t expecting the game that sat on my PS3’s XMB for nearly a decade without being launched to have such a profound impact on me, but here we are.
Machinarium is special, and I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try if you haven’t played it before and like the sound of an atmospheric indie point and click adventure. You don’t have to do what I did and dust off your PS3 or BlackBerry PlayBook (seriously, what is that thing?) either, as Machinarium since 2012 has also seen releases on the PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Basically anything capable of playing games in the last decade has Machinarium available on it, so you’ve got no excuse not to give it a go.
Amanita Design is a studio firmly on my radar now, and I look forward to trying out titles in their back catalogue like the Samorost series and Creaks. I’m also in the market for as much Machinarium merchandise as I can get my hands on, including the soundtrack on vinyl.
I guess the moral of the story here is that it doesn’t hurt to revisit games that you may have only played for a short period of time or didn’t like initially, and that in fact hiding within that game may be a memorable experience that you’ve been sorely missing. If I hadn’t moved back to my parents place and brought the PS3 along, I may never have finally played Machinarium again, and ultimately I’m glad I did.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron