By far one of the best games of the last year was a PC adventure game called Machinarium by Czech developer Amanita Design. Just over the last couple days it's lead character Josef was announced as a playable replacement for Alien Hominid in the PC version of Super Meat Boy giving me ample excuse to discuss the game.
Machinarium takes place in a world entirely occupied by robots. The game opens with the main character being deposited into a garbage dump just outside the city the character will spend most of his time within. Actually, it's questionable whether it is actually a dump or this is just what the world looks like, thrown out wreckage littering every part of the world. While many elements of the environment can be called cute, it is an unwelcoming and lifeless place creating a reasonable understanding for why Josef spends the game trying to rescue his companion.
Yes, this is another Save-the-Princess game. Your goal is to find and rescue a (female?) robot friend of the protagonist. The trope is well used however. You explore an environment that, like perhaps an extremely urban atmosphere, is mostly hostile towards your needs and seems to stand to oppose you at every step. Most of the other robots in the city are apathetic or out right aggressive towards Josef, and the structure of the city is built to challenge his goals.
The visuals look almost painted onto the game. This is one of the trademark joys of Amanita Design's titles. They all look gorgeous without requiring high res, big budget funds. And with Machinarium the choice art style provides an early-twentieth century futuristic aesthetic, like one would find in the silent film Metropolis.
The narrative in Machinarium always chooses to use music and thought bubbles filled with images, not words, in order to communicate to the player the needs of the robots. This is a fantastic choice as it gives the robots a language of their own, allowing them to emote more expressively than reading dialog typically allows, and it allows company to easily distribute its game to people outside their native language. Anyone from anywhere can understand the story and the characters in Machinarium. There is no language barrier at all.
These are just a few of the good things I could say about Machinarium. The game is an absolute joy, and a true success in a slightly old and slightly stale genre. If you haven't given it a try than I definitely would encourage you to, especially if you are a fan of adventure games or just like to play something different.
You can play the demo of Machinarium RIGHT HERE.