You’re a lonely little robot. It’s a big, dark world and you’re (mostly) alone. You float around looking for answers to questions no one ever asked, and hit buttons you’re not sure the meaning of. Welcome to the world of Unmechanical.
The humble child of Talawa Games, Teotl Studios, and Future Games, Unmechanical seems to find home in the unusual. As you may know, you play the role of a cute little bot with a propeller and a tractor beam, trying your best to find out just what is going on.
Granted, no one ever asked what is going on…and perhaps that’s part of the charm. It may sound a tad insane, but hear me out. While the casual glance or hasty play may lead you to believe there is no story, I do believe that with enough time, you will come to notice the general narrative of Unmechanical. It’s so very light, and subtle, that it’s possible I may be hallucinating. Perhaps this is one of those “experience it for yourself” types of games, then. Where each person has a different time with it. I’m quite sure a few other reviewers might tell you that the story is simply nonexistent, but before taking their word (or mine), you should try the game for yourself.
Once you do pick-up the game though, you’ll very nearly instantly have the hang of it. It’s one of those games that has ridiculously focused and simple controls, and knows exactly how to put them to proper use. You simply fly about with WASD, and then use that wicked-awesome tractor beam of yours with the spacebar. Sound too good to be true? Well it isn’t. Stop being so skeptical. Sheesh.
As soon as you’ve gotten the hang of the brain-dead simple controls, you may begin to feel a slight itch. “When do I get a rocket launcher?” You may ask yourself. “When do I get to upgrade my robot with a better rotor blades, or faster movement?” Perhaps after a few minutes of playing, you may find that this game isn’t for you. Assuredly, if all you want to do is feel the blood in your eyeballs surging with adrenaline, then go play the latest dime-a-dozen shooter.
This game has a much more relaxed pace, and it deserves to be played as such. Take a breath, enjoy yourself, let the game slowly unfurl it’s secrets for you. Once you stop placing unrealistic guidelines upon it, and just let the game be what it is, then you’ll actually begin to enjoy the subtle nuances and craftsmanship that went into it’s creation. While you may feel a tad bored with the initial “press this button, pull this lever” type of puzzles, eventually you begin doing all manner of other feats. You’ll be sabotaging machinery, helping power a giant beating heart, plumbing massive watery depths, and more! Yes, the idea of the game is very easy to master, but it won’t bore you by giving you the same things over and over.
Sure, the textures may all get a bit same-y at times. Yes, some puzzles make you feel like a bit of an idiot once you realize their deceptively simple reasoning. But the game more than makes up for it with the mood and style it portrays. There are several parts where you may be conflicting with yourself over just how big the little bot you control is. At one point, I observed what I thought was clearly a simple carpentry nail, and it was at least 10 times my size. At other points, I was surrounded by technology and machinery of a seemingly massive scale. It was this ability to mix the grand and minute that really sold me on Unmechanical. Also, how your little bot makes a sort of oomph sound when you bump into stuff. Sometimes it’s just the little things.
Sadly, there isn’t much replayability here to speak of. Admittedly, there is the “oh, neat, I want to see that cool puzzle again” availability here. They might not be as incredible the second time around, but they’re still pretty neat to play. Other than that, though, there’s no terribly pressing incentive to play again unless it’s been awhile and you want to slip back into those old familiar robot shoes.
As seems to be the trend here, I get a wistful “if only” feeling when it comes to Unmechanical in regards to multiplayer. Granted, I’m playing the beta, and there may yet be some soon-implemented “solve-with-a-friend” capacity, but as it stands now, you feel about as alone as the little bot you control. I daresay some multiplayer would greatly increase the replayability as well, but perhaps only time will tell.
What we have in the end, then, is a decidedly solid game. It has some unbelievably salient moments that simply must be experienced, it has a very focused style and mood, and it has either the laziest or most brilliant writing I’ve seen in a while. A cute little game, indeed, though perhaps just a bit too little. On that point, though, I’ll let you be the judge.