Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Developer: Amanita Design
Publisher: Amanita Design
Adventure - PC
HDD, 6 Save Files
1 player

Yes, yes, another PC point-and-click adventure game. This may be the last one I review for a while (although, I'm working on the original Myst so I could be lying) . But what an amazing point-and-click adventure this is.

What sucks you in immediately are the hand-drawn visuals and a soundtrack that feels choreographed to each situation. machinarium oozes atmosphere. You feel like you're in a post-apocalyptic alternate world populated only by mechanical entities. Characters squeak as they move.  Most of the overworld has a cold, rusty and abandoned feel to it.

One charming detail I enjoyed is the way the story unfolds. The story is told not in cutscenes or text, but through simple pictures and animations in character word bubbles. This gives the game more of a universal appeal, not having to deal with language and complements the game world that much more.

But the heart of machinarium is its puzzles. Every step of the way, you're in the midst of trying to solve one or multiple puzzles. Sometimes you're stuck in a room, and need to find items and manipulate objects to figure a way out. Other times, you come across a locked boxes which require deciphering logic puzzles to open. There are a lot of creative puzzles scattered throughout the game, and no two are the same. Many will challenge even the best puzzlers out there. I admit I had to resort to a FAQ on a couple occasions, but when I struggled through and finally overcame many of the puzzles on my own, the sense of accomplishment was incredible. Best of all, I love how machinarium offers the player an single hint for each room. It's completely optional, but will prove vital when you have no idea what to do.

machinarium is utterly brilliant. As far as puzzle-adventure games go, this is my favorite. It offers mental challenge after mental challenge, but you never feel like the game is unfair. Sure, it doesn't offer quirky humor or make you fall in love with the characters like other adventure games do. But in its focus to create a logic-based puzzle adventure game, machinarium is unrivaled. Kudos to Amanita Design for bringing it. Their next project, Botanicula, is just around the corner.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Adam's Venture Ep1

Adam's Venture Episode 1: The Search for the Lost Garden
Developer: Vertigo Digital Entertainment
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Puzzle Adventure - PC
1 player
 Adam's Venture Episode 1: The Search for the Lost Garden

The original Tomb Raider is one of my favorite games. It completely nailed the 3D puzzle-adventure and set the standard of what came next. Recently, a new title popped up on the Steam Store at $3.99 (launch discount price). The trailer looked incredible for a $4 game, and gave me the whole Tomb Raider vibe. Was it warranted?

In short, no.  I can't really say the trailer was deceptive, but they showed the most exciting parts and the rest of the game didn't quite live up.

The hero of the game is Adam, a cocky adventurer. The story starts out with him decrypting a message which shows the location of the original Garden of Eden, hence the game's subtitle.  As a result, biblical references show up all throughout the game.

I THOUGHT the game would play out like an Indie Tomb Raider with some platforming, exploration and puzzles.  But any platforming/climbing is really there to break monotony of walking.  The designers put up blockades all around you to funnel you to the next destination, for the most part, so there was little exploration to be had.  The puzzles themselves started off amusing, but devolved into repeating the same few basic types. Most of them were entirely straight-forward, and required little thinking to solve. 

Visually, the game is based off the Unreal 3 Engine. It actually looks really good for an independent game, with plenty of interior detail and lighting effects. The backdrops are fantastic, and probably helped to sell me on the purchase. But there's enough jankiness to the character animations and some odd glitches that remind you that it is not as polished as a full-fledged commercial title.

Overall, Adam's Venture Episode 1 feels like a low budget title, which should be expected given its low price.  So far there are three episodes out, but only the first is available on Steam. I should mention that the Steam version has at least one puzzle that the original indie version lacked, so there may be other differences other than the addition of achievements.  It's possible the more recent episodes have more interesting things being done.  But having completed this first episode, I ultimately found the experience unsatisfying, even at its bargain bin purchase price.