Indie Review: Unmechanical
Unmechanical is a game that started out as a mere student project but does this plucky indie puzzler have what it takes to soar or is it just a heap of junk?
- Worth The Time?Definitely
- Things LovedThe lovely visuals make the game a pleasing sight. Simplistic controls allow you to focus on generally the engaging and intelligent puzzles that balance brain power with skill very well.
- Things HatedGame is relatively short. Rocky background sometimes looks rough and oddly textured.
- RecommendationUnmechanical took me by surprise and boy, was it a pleasant one. It's a brilliant little gem that no puzzle game fan can pass up. It look great, plays smoothly and will challenge your puzzle-solving skills. It's not one to be missed and at $10 you have no reason to pass it up. It may be brief but it is oh so sweet. I can find very little to criticise this game for and what flaws I do pick out are inconsequential. This is a shining example of a clever little puzzle game.
- Name: Unmechanical
- Genre: 2.5D Puzzle (Indie)
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PC, iOS
- Developer: Teotl Studios, Talawa Games
- Publisher: Teotl Studios, Talawa Games
- Price: $9.99
- Reviewed On: PC
Unmechanical is a game that took me completely by surprise. I picked it out of the indie pool hoping for a decent puzzler but got so much more. A little digging revealed that this game started out life as a student project and then blossomed into a spectacular little piece of work and is right up there with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and ABBA as far as Swedish exports go.
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You play as a floaty robot thingy which we’ll call iDroid (because screw your lawsuits, Apple) or possibly Jeff. Yeah, let’s call him Jeff. So Jeff finds himself stuck in this labyrinth of caverns and you really just spending the duration of the game navigating these caverns and trying to get out. There is no narrative to speak of past that most basic of premises nor is there any recorded dialogue but you really don’t need any of that.
The game has some exquisite visuals and 2.5D rarely looks this damn pretty. The background may not be something you can interact with but you don’t mind just staring at it because everything is designed so nicely and looks so good. From the industrial looking sections to the rocky waterlogged bits. Everything looks so crisp, sharp and detailed and it really is an HD game despite the default settings being far below what the game can actually do. The only problem I had was that rockier areas sometimes looked a little rough with those rounded edges and uneven textures. The straight-edged and even surfaces of the more industrial looking sections are far better done.
The controls are even ratehr simple with it really being as simple as moving around and using one of any number of buttons to use Jeff’s tractor beam which can activate switches, pull levers or lift objects. Pretty simple, right? This means that in literally no time you’ll have mastered controlling Jeff and can focus on what’s important – the puzzle-solving.
The puzzles start off rather typical and ho-hum. Your predictable mix of little memory games and activating a pressure switch and you know the rest. Once you’re a little more familiar with things, the game starts throwing curveballs at you. Staggering puzzles so that you have to finish them in two parts or using elements from a previously solved puzzle in a new one. There’s just a great spread of variety from memory games to ones that test your reaction time, critical/lateral thinking, ones that require finesse in moving Jeff around and even some quirkier ones that wouldn’t be apparently obvious to most. Some of the puzzles are frustratingly obtuse and quirky to the point of near frustration but none are impossible such that you can’t finish the game in one sitting.
You’re looking at maybe 4 or 5 hours of concentrated entertainment that flexes your brain a little bit. Another game that was short but rewarding was Limbo. I draw the comparison because Limbo also had that same stripped down but visually intriguing approach to its genre (platformer). It kept things simple and focused on delivering good gameplay in a fresh and unique package. It didn’t sully things with much of a narrative or dialogue or any of that. Unmechanical takes a similar approach with no real narrative and a single-minded focus on throwing you into these lovely little puzzles. The game is not long enough for this approach to wear thin and there are little moments of intrigue (just as with Limbo) that fill you with fresh curiosity. The puzzles are enough to keep you going though because they are so damn fun and satisfying to solve.
Often, the solution is easy enough to execute but the challenge is in figuring it out and that’s soemthing I really appreciate and adore in this game. Coming from someone who used to love mathematics competitions, take that with more salt than the Winchester brothers. That’s not to say that your skill and speed won’t be tested every now and again. I’d say that this game does pacing better than most and certainly knows how to distribute its puzzles and mix them up.
Whatever music you listen to, you’ll love the smooth techno that plays in the background. It’s as if Daft Punk took Valium and then composed something and so the Unmechanical OST was born. The game suffers from no graphical or technical bugs so far as I could see and plays very smoothly despite full HD not being its default setting.
It’s possibly not quite the experience that Limbo was but it is certainly worth it’s weight in gold because Unmechanical is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying puzzle games I’ve played in a while. There’s so much variety and such good pacing of the puzzles that you’ll never get bored or feel any tedium. The game’s certainly too short for that. I can’t really find much to fault it for and what I do find is of relative inconsequence. The game isn’t perfect and sure, sometimes the puzzles do amount to more guesswork than intellectual prowess but this happens quite rarely. Ultimately, there was nothing that kept me from thoroughly enjoying this experience and walking away with a satisfied smile on my face.