Point Review: Unmechanical (PC)

October 9th, 2012 by

Developer: Teotl Studios
Publisher: Talawa Games
Genre: Side-scrolling puzzle adventure
Players: 1
Console: PC (also coming to iOS)
Hours Played: ~3-4
Progress: Completed the game and saw both possible endings.

Teotl Studios, makers of the popular Unreal Tournament III mod The Ball, recently released their latest unique puzzler, Unmechanical.  With the world of indie games ever-expanding, it’s becoming hard to “separate the wheat from the chaff” as it were, and the line between great indie releases and those not worth the bytes they’re made of is growing increasingly thin.  Does Unmechanical reach the pinnacle of indie creativity bringing a fresh perspective that is unlikely to come from larger studios, or does it fall by the wayside with the all too numerous indie releases that never really amount to anything?  Read on to hear what we thought of our time hovering around and bumping into things in Unmechanical.

  • As with many indie games, story is a bit tricky to discuss in terms of Unmechanical.
  • You play as an endearing little robot dude in an underground cave/complex/body(?) and your only drive is to progress to some unknown end by solving a series of puzzles in a free-roaming side-scrolling environment.
  • There are many vague clues throughout the game that build a large mythos behind your microcosmic puzzle fiddling, but they are never fully actualized to the point where the over-arcing story is abundantly plain, even the two possible endings make you wonder which is the good one and which is the bad one (if there even is a good one and bad one).
  • The endings are also sort of abrupt, there probably could have been more done to signify the coming of the game’s completion. 

  • Controls, when using an Xbox 360 controller like I did, are very simple.  You use the left control stick to float your dude around and use more or less any button to activate your little carrying tractor beam to move objects around.
  • A surprising number of actions can be derived from the one-stick, one-button control scheme, and it never really makes you feel like you need more abilities.
  • The puzzles in the first 7/8 of the game are perfectly balanced to where you need to give them a bit of thinking, but their solutions are never obscure enough to frustrate.  I did need to look up the solution to two of the puzzles near the end, as their solutions were not as cleanly reached as the ones before them, but if I did spend enough time on them I’m sure I could have solved them in good time as well.
  • Unlike many puzzle adventure games, you are never given any hints that aren’t a built-in part of the puzzle or level.  You’ll just come across a lever that doesn’t work or a big multi-coloured panel and it’s up to you not only to figure out how to solve the puzzle, but figure out that there is a puzzle to be solved there too.
  • The lack of an instruction and/or hint system in the game puts a lot of onus on the design and layout of the game’s puzzles, but they all beautifully convey their functionality without the need for words or symbols.
  • The player-controlled robot, as well as NPC robots, are imbued with an impressive level of personality considering that they hardly even communicate at all.  The little “oof” noises your robot makes if when you bump into things and its little dangling appendages that swish as you float around make it feel a lot more personable than one would expect. 

  • The game’s Unreal graphics are quite nice throughout, even considering that the only graphical adjustment options you are given is a “High/Low” toggle.
  • The options for things like anti-aliasing and v-sync are conspicuously missing in the game, and it’s super-hard to add them using graphic card utilities too.  I ended up having to inject SMAA into the game to get the aliasing level down on my Retina Macbook’s screen, as the highest available resolution was a measly 1920×1200.
  • The various environmental components of a natural (rocks and things), mechanical (robots and machines), and organic (random body tissues and organs) were all top-notch and blended well enough with one another that no elements ever felt out of place.
  • As a side note, the characters in Unmechanical bear more than a passing resemblance to those in Machinarium, another excellent indie puzzle adventure game, but that’s neither here nor there as both of the games are still very attractive.

  • The character sounds, environmental noises, and music are all unique, inspired, and unobtrusive, adding to your game experience in the best way possible.
  • There were no stand-out selections from the soundtrack that I’d want on an iPod or anything, but they all served their purposes very well and never got in the way of the gameplay.
  • Sound is an important element in several of the puzzles, but it is usually used in such a way that it is accompanied by visual hints so as no to alienate the hearing or speaker impaired.

  • Aside from the small branch at the very end of the game that differentiates the two endings, there is essentially no need to replay the game or redo any portions therein.
  • There’s usually only one main way to solve most of the puzzles, so you probably won’t be going back to try different methods.
  • The only replay value inherent in Unmechanical would come from wanting to spend another hour or two to go back and enjoy the pretty environments or perhaps try to figure out the story a little better.

Unmechanical is a short, but very tightly designed puzzle adventure game.  There are a lot of unique sights to see, a lot of puzzles to solve that will make you feel smart, and an engaging experience to be had on the whole.  The fun to be had in Unmechanical is well worth the $9.99 entry fee, even if you end up wishing the game was at least a little longer.  PC gamers with high-end rigs may also wish that there were more graphical customization options, but without them Unmechanical is still a pleasant romp through the puzzling world of a little robot with a propeller on his head that shouldn’t be missed.

 Rated 8.8A review copy of this game was provided to us by its publisher.