I’ve been having a go of Machinarium, a point and click adventure game from Amanita Design. It runs natively on Linux, probably because it’s all in Flash.
And what to say of machines? Machinarium is a vision of a hellish post-apocalyptic world run by cruel robot overlords. Or maybe not. Machinarium’s visuals are quite clear. It’s a rundown world of junk metal, where even the animals are machines. However its background is never stated, indeed nothing is ever stated because none of the characters in Machinarium speak. So what’s going on? Are we in Engine Heart? I am intrigued and bewitched, however Machinarium does a very clever thing. It sets up an exotic world full of possibility and then it focuses on its characters exploring that world so you discover it as they do. It is the epitome of Show, don’t Tell.
And what to say of machines? Well in Machinarium you play a robot. Your robot puzzles through the world, not on any epic quest but an important mission nonetheless. His(or Her?) own background starts out oblique but is filled in by idling in areas. He can only interact in a limited radius around him, though he can stretch and compress to extend that. He never speaks to others intelligibly, instead meaning is converyed through pictograms. Your robot points at a can of oil. The bartender shakes his head and a speech bubble appears with a picture of coins.
The lack of dialogue allows the soundtrack to shine. Mechanical but with emotion, it provides a pleasing ambience in most areas. It never overrides the sound of the world either, mingling with the noise of robots going about their lives. And that’s what really sells Machinarium. You climb a repair-bot to shock a mechanical cat. You find a cigarette for a prisoner and he gives you his arm. You don’t just attach item A to item B. You interact with robots who are just like people.
And what to say of machines? Perhaps they really are.