Nothing pleases me more than robots. Big robots, small robots, transforming robots, cute little robots with a hint of steampunk and a propeller on their head, all appeal in equal measure. Previously released on Steam, Unmechanical: Extended has such a robot, as mentioned latterly above and he’s just this side of funky.
Billed as an adventure puzzler that combines platforming, memory, logical and linear thinking puzzles, Unmechanical: Extended will slowly draw you into its world of flesh, rock and steel. You are a little robot that has been kidnapped and you are tasked with solving all of the puzzles put before you in order to escape.
After a short intro where you are shown how your floating character was kidnapped, or should that be robot-knapped, you are dropped into the most basic of control and feature tutorials. This, as it goes, is not to the detriment of the game, as the controls themselves are very simplistic. You can move around the arena with powered propeller flight and you can manipulate objects and even pick them up if small enough with a nifty little tractor-beam.
The game starts you off trying to escape from the underground complex you’ve been pulled into. The initial puzzles are simple and are probably designed to make those self-same controls second nature and give it a nice gentle difficulty curve to start you off. During these early levels, you are introduced to the interactive nature of the environment you find yourself trapped inside. Switches can be thrown, electrical wires have to be reconnected, weights and measures are explored. The variety of the puzzles themselves is commendable from the outset.
These initial puzzles also get you used to the graphics of the environment. This is a sumptuous, dark, steampunk-inspired environment. Sometimes, indeed, the environment is too dark and it becomes difficult to determine exactly which switch, rock, girder or even door you’re supposed to be headed for. That being said, the graphics are ideal and central to the game itself. They are brilliantly animated and very well rendered. The only problem you may face is which parts of your surroundings are actually interactive.
The loose parts of the scenery that you can lift respond to gravity as well, giving you the all-new problem of inertia when moving some items, especially when they need to be stacked, and as your tractor-beam allows them to swing, pendulously, getting them in the exact place can be quite tricky. The object of the puzzles varies, from moving light sources to different placements, to redirecting laser beams, to simply loosening large items to crash through a locked door. All help towards the ultimate objective of escape.
The levels themselves are a mixture of cavernous to small, all filled with the variety of puzzles already mentioned. Some of these are almost organic and others are industrial to the point of being dangerous. They all feel ominous, to the point of being oppressive. It’s like a digital version of 90s game show, The Crystal Maze, without Richard O’Brien, the crystals or the frankly daft contestants. These contestants inevitably got confused and came out. Get confused in Unmechanical: Extended and you can fall back on tapping the help button. This was the most frustrating part of the game for me. The hints, if you can call them hints, are mostly a question mark in a thought bubble. Sometimes they work and they’ll give you a graphic of what you might want to try, but mostly, you’ll simply get the standard Crystal Maze contestant response, the confused look.
This means you are generally left to your own devices to try to solve the puzzle you’re working on solving. You’ve no idea if you’re doing things in the correct order, or indeed if you’re even manipulating or moving the correct objects. This can have the effect of making you immensely proud of having solved such a tricky conundrum. Adversely, it can leave you tearing your hair out in frustration as nothing you try opens the door, releases the light for transport or activates that tricky switch. The fact that there are no time constraints for the most part is of benefit but doesn’t lend to the urgency you should be feeling to escape. It all feels very pedestrian.
Musically, the game has a constant background track that, while unobtrusive and complimentary to the setting, is largely bland and uninspiring and could have done with being a little more varied, to inspire some urgency at the very least. The sound effects are done well, with the moving parts of the scenery all clanking, whirring, beating & sploshing away happily.
Playability for the game as a whole, is just about right. The puzzles are not all blatantly obvious, which would simply spoil the game, but neither are they so difficult that would make the game simply unplayable as a challenge. The simplicity of the controls adds to the ease of playability for the game. Your little robot responds well to your movements and unless you’re trying to place something precisely, you can guide it pretty much wherever it needs to be with a certain amount of precision and ease.
Unmechanical: Extended, overall, is a funpuzzler with a variety of challenges set in a well animated and graphically dark world. While the controls are easy to master and simple, the lack of an accurate help system lets the game down slightly. There are many levels to challenge you and the updated and improved version of the original Unmechanical comes with the added bonus of a console-exclusive story episode – queue the “Extended” part of the title – this new set of puzzles focuses on rescuing a robot friend who has also been robot-knapped by the underground system.
Throughout this game you’ll uncover secrets about your captors and discover a couple of endings, all while solving those tricky puzzles. Should you pick it up? Yes, it’s not your run-of-the-mill puzzler and while it’s not perfect, it is a very good game in its own right. Go for it.
Thanks to Grip Games for supplying TiX with a download code.
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