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Machinarium ($20, gameplay-limited demo) is a breathtaking Flash-based 2D graphical adventure game. The beautiful and well-realized setting is a steampunk robot world; only robots live there, and they speak in thought balloons and pantomime.
As your robot avatar first pieces himself together and then makes his way inside a robot castle, you'll immediately be struck by how immersive the experience is. The haunting music and sound effects are wonderful, and you'll have a blast picking up objects (which the robot places inside himself like a trash can) and using them to interact with the environment. Your robot can also make himself a little taller or shorter in order to better reach things; comically, he doesn't walk very steadily while in these forms. It may remind you of Pixar's animated film Wall-E, but Machinarium doesn't suffer from the comparison.
Navigation is easy: Just click to move around the 2D landscape. To use an object, click it in your pop-up inventory, and click somewhere on the screen to use it. Often, items such as a hat or lightbulb are used on the robot itself. The puzzles require more out-of-the-box thinking as the game goes on--with only a few things per screen that can be manipulated, it seems easier than it is. Fortunately, you'll be so swept away by the design that you'll want to take the time to figure it out.
Amanita Design has created a quirky, wonderful game that recalls adventure games of old. It will appeal especially to fans of LucasArts' Loom, another game told without any dialogue from the main character. Highly recommended.
Note: The demo takes you through about 10% of gameplay, which will take you about fifteen minutes to complete. The full version costs $20.
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