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Machinarium Review (PC)

As originally published in GDN.COM (Gamer’s Daily News) by Robert Hedlerfog:

Machinarium Review (PC)

Posted by Robert Hedlerfog, 

At last the long-awaited Machinarium has arrived, a new point and click adventure from the independent game studio, Amanita Design, based in Prague. It awakens the classic adventure gaming feeling from the early 80’s, when inspiring games like The Hobbit, Hitchhikers guide, Bureaucracy and Myst were popular.Those games were a labour of love and had the intensity, the well-designed game plot and thorough background based on plenty of research. Amanita Design have that same approach in making the robot fantasy Machinarium but also in earlier outlandish and charming work with Samorost, Samorost2 and Questionaut (a children’s quiz for BBC). Amanita Design has undeniably walked their own path among the myriads of games out there.In Machinarium you take on the role of an ingenious little telescopic robot and subtly battle to save his kidnapped girlfriend and his hometown starting out from a robot scrap yard where he is dumped. He must swiftly come to his beloved and his fellow citizens’ rescue and save the city from being blown to pieces by the three hoodlums of the Black Cap Brotherhood, by using wits and any trick up his telescopic robot sleeves.The environment is ominous and, at the same time, humorous and beautiful with its hand-drawn and genuine backgrounds. Dungeons, machine rooms, advanced devices, factory buildings, worn-out facades, rusty pipes and dented cisterns, a robot gallery, each with a unique peculiarity. Picture clues must be understood, lurking traps need to be cleared and intriguing puzzles yearn for solutions. Being an archetypical robot tale some robots are musicians, some are bar or house owners, some bad, some good, some policemen, some offenders of the city order or just bullies from Josef’s childhood. Josef gets flashbacks of the malevolent robots he encounter and often daydreams about his missing girlfriend and his childhood. The game has an endearing charm with its handmade animations and tailor made scenarios and brings out plenty of playing joy.

 

Josef interacts only with objects within reach. The robot has an extended and a compressed mode and can stretch out his telescopic limbs to reach for nearby objects to prevent players to just randomly click them selves to a solution. The inventory system elegantly cleans out the used inventory with a clever animation in a natural and often humorous way.

The level of difficulty varies from pretty basic to fairly advanced. In total there are about 30 locations, suiting all members of the family to play independently or together. Machinarium has many mini-games, even the in-game hint system has to be unlocked by a horizontal shooter. Anything from Rubik’s cube variant to “5-in-a-row“ and other clever little puzzles or devices in-between. All very well crafted with completely sound and logical solutions.

Every scene is planned carefully at the paper and pen stage. All ingenious little steps and clever applications of inventory and related animations are skilfully and artistically executed. That little twinkle in the eye is there, in every scene, in every animation. During every course of action there is customized robot jazz or robot symphonies playing in the background taking gaming music to the next level I dare say. The dedicated musician and the sound technician at Amanita contribute with an important part.

The founder of Amanita Design, Jakub Dvorský, 30, from the Czech Republic with strong artistic family influences has put his soul and feel for art into the game. As a student he made the well-known and unusual flash game Samorost as a degree project. The Amanita Design Studio, started by Jakub and his student friend and animator Václav Blín in 2003, has already been awarded two prestigious prizes this year for Machinarium - The IndieCade 08´s - Aesthetics Award and the Independent Games Festivals - Excellence in Visual Art Award.

The game is taking place in a barren environment, similar to the Wall-E movie. Despite all the mechanical gadgets and robots, there is plenty of humanity that sentimentally softens the player’s view of the robot society. There are jazz playing robot musicians, runaway robopets, robot citizens, all with special activity and human-like traits. These bits of humanism in the otherwise cold robot reality are what make the game so alive and personal. There is constantly that underdog feeling impregnating the game and you can’t help but taking Josef’s (named after the Czech artist Josef Capek, who coined the word “robot”) destiny as your own and loyally help “him” on his journey toward his worthy goals.

There are also bad robots of course, hoodlums, sadistic wardens, intolerant police robots, busy shop owners, and other authoritarian types taking any chance to make life difficult for the citizens. One has a feeling that the game is also an allegory and a subtle tool for the game makers to allow them to display through the world of Machinarium their own outlook of the world. Jakub has in interviews stated that writers like Stanislav Lem, Douglas Adams, Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Stanley Kubrick and Karel Zeman, who had a similar outlook of the world in common, influence him. They all in their own way wanted to tell the world what kind of world we really live in and ask us all to react before it is too late.

A novelty in http://gamersdailynews.com/images/awards/GDN_Gold_Award_LORES.gifMachinarium is the nonverbal communication system. All communication is made through sketches in talking bubbles above the communicating characters. The sketches are well made and cleverly done and the communicated messages are clear. No tedious text to skim through! The team felt that it was abundant with text communication when the sketches did a better job and admittedly thought they were not capable of a good written dialogue so they chose another solution. Their game Machinarium has single-handedly taken back a lot of territory from other gaming genres and revived the charm and importance of the click and point adventures. Welcome Machinarium, to a very well earned and stable place on the throne for point-and-click adventure games!

 

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For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings
 Our Rating for Machinarium Review (PC)
5.0
Replay
Not much interest in replaying a solved adventure game but Machinarium would be one of the few exceptions due to its charm and uniqueness and I would gladly play it over again to show a friend.
9.5
Graphics
The hand drawn art style and cute animations are truly a piece of art and the game would not be what it is without it.
9.0
Sound
A new standard is set for customized gaming music that really helps to enhance the game!
9.5
Gameplay
The gaming experience is just wonderful. All factors come together to one beautiful game. Period.
0.1
Multiplayer/Online Content
9.0
Overall
This is a game every player should allow himself or herself to enjoy alone or with their family. It is childish, it is cute, it is clever, it is subtle and it is mind-boggling at times. And it is a piece of art!

As originally published in GDN (Gamer’s Daily News):

 

Rubik’s Puzzle Galaxy Rush Review (WiiWare)

Originally published at GDN (Gamers Daily News):

http://www.gamersdailynews.com/article-2265-Rubiks-Puzzle-Galaxy-Rush-Review-W

Rubik’s Puzzle Galaxy Rush Review (WiiWare)

Posted by Robert Hedlerfog, 

Rubik’s Puzzle Galaxy Rush is the first game of three, in the new Rubik’s Galaxy series from Two Tribes launched just in time before Christmas. The game is based on a 3D game engine that really makes the world actually spin and gives a great stylish and spacious feeling to the game arena. It has a slight similarity with Chuchu Rocket, from Dreamcast and will probably be enjoyed by those who liked that game. But the better and faster 3D feeling and cooler graphics makes this an entirely new game of its own, so don´t worry! Think Lemmings, think Cuchu Rocket and think Wii game feeling, and you may get a pretty good hunch of what it is all about without giving away too much. The goal is to guide colorful cubes in tricky patterns to the exit points to be able to solve each level being thrown at you. You have in your toolbox, conveyor belts, warps, stop signs, direction signs, speed switches, splits and what not. That is as hard as it gets, when it comes to learn the game rules, the rest is all about finding out what to do with those tools and when and where to place them. Easy? – Sometimes! Fun? – Yes! Addictive? – Yes! And better yet, you don´t have to be Zsa Zsa Gabor and help your inventor friend by launching a world party in order to get a Rubik´s Cube in your house, you just need to buy this game. Yeah, you get the cube in four different sizes in the bargain and a world to play it with as well. Not bad huh? Included in the package, you can play the classic cube game in pure 3D mode and compete against other Wii friends. Of course with a tutorial! Christmas is saved! Well I have to admit, I was one of those Rubik´s poor kids, so this game did connect with me on a pretty high level, but I did forget all about that cube the last 30 years! I had them in any size and probably wasted a number of them trying as well, if I remember correctly. My trick to get faster was to put a bit of butter (!) in the inside to make things smoother, a bit too smooth as it would show, because a number of my cubes fell apart thanks to it. Don´t try this at home on your Wii! The game has great funky sounds and background music that makes you feel motivated for the challenges. There are more than 70 gradually harder but fair puzzles and of course the challenge hardens by being compared with all online players for best finishing time in each level. The online leader boards make this game survive that much longer once you cleared the puzzles, smart move! The graphics are quite simple but adequate, smooth and fast, and everything feels very streamlined and genuine. It has a beat of its own and I really feel like playing just by watching the intro scenes. That´s the way it should be, the game should convince you, not the other way around. The wii-remote interaction is impressively responsive and specifically designed so no complaints in that department. There is also a quick guide, to get hang of it in zilch time. There is no doubt, Two Tribes have created a potential hit here. I really enjoy the action packed mental state that the game manages to put the player into. I have a feeling this game will attract both old and young, and what a great way to connect between these generations! This is a game I want to play with my grandchildren one day! If you aspire for your kids (or yourself) to improve their skills in creativity and problem solving this is probably a game you should be seriously thinking about gifting them for Christmas. The puzzles are tricky and gives a good feel of achievement and builds confidence! What kid does not need that in this world these days!

Originally published at GDN (Gamers Daily News):
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May 2018
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