Originally released on PC and iOS back in 2012, Unmechanical was one of many indie puzzlers to flood the market during that time span. With the likes of Machinarium, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Limbo, and many more all already available, Talawa Games’ release was perhaps lost on most casual gamers, despite solid reviews.
Now, a little under three years later, Talawa has partnered with Grip Games (Jet Car Stunts) in order to bring Unmechanical: Extended to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. With upgraded visuals and a full exclusive level filled to the brim with fresh puzzles, this re-release hopes to find a new audience.
Told with no dialogue and little indication of what’s going on, the barely-there story of Unmechanical places gamers in the body of a tiny flying robot. An adorable little fellow, our robot friend is kidnapped by some malevolent force and forced to make his way out of a cold and dark underground chamber. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a storyline hook for you, then I don’t know what to tell you, because that is literally all there is to the plot.
The lack of any sort of storyline could perhaps have been a blessing for Talawa Games, though, as by not having to create a unique tale, they were able to fully focus on crafting puzzles. Since the robot can only really do one thing, pick things up with his tractor beam, a majority of the puzzles are based around picking up various objects (rocks, metal beams, mirrors) and positioning them correctly.
It’s a testament to how good at creating brainteasers the studio is, because this basic formula could have gotten extremely old pretty quickly. However, by constantly changing not only what objects players are interacting with, but how they interact with the environment around them, things always felt fresh and new. A couple of the puzzles felt a little too obtuse at times, but for the most part, all of them were very fair and could be solved by either studying the environment or using my noodle.
There is a small hint system placed into the game, which should theoretically help any gamer who gets stuck move forward. However, I felt that the hints, which appear as thought bubbles, were either too obscure, or nothing at all. Instead of a hint, you sometimes only get a question mark, which is surprisingly not helpful in the least.
While the majority of the puzzles in the original Unmechanical are a joy to solve, the less said about the additional Extended sections the better. The riddles lack the enjoyable spark that was so prevalent in the first batch, and one frustratingly awful section almost made me quit. It’s not like this one section was tough to solve, either. It feels like it was just placed into the game in order to pad out the campaign.
By not having any meaningful plot to drive the gameplay, it makes these occasional bouts of frustration that much more annoying. It would be one thing if I knew that finishing a particularly troublesome brainteaser was going to lead to a new storyline beat. With little motivation provided, outside of wanting to prove how smart I was, a vast majority of the experience felt a little too bland for my tastes. Genius puzzle designs can only cover up the lack of motivation for so long before it begins to feel like I’m just going through the motions.
It doesn’t help that the entire game, meaning both the original Unmechanical and the Extended sections, can be finished in about five hours or so. This includes getting both endings for each section, as well as collecting all of the achievements, which I didn’t do. So, it lacks the length of similar puzzlers, and the storyline to compete with the truly great digital releases. This is not a great combination to have.
Aesthetically, the title does little to differentiate itself from the pack. The graphics are nice in parts, particularly the lightning, but are hampered by the overall bland look. Most of the game is set in the same generic steel caves, and the few fellow robots you come across all look incredibly similar. The sparse soundtrack accompanying you is not particularly memorable, either.
Unmechanical: Extended is more than a little frustrating, mostly because buried underneath the cold, steel outer shell of the game, lies a real gem. Talawa Games clearly knows to craft intricate puzzles, and if slightly more work had been put into it, perhaps the world of the game could have been a little more fleshed out. As of now, though, with no story to speak of, little in the way of replay value, and a very brief length, the whole experience is just another sad disappointment.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the title, which was provided to us.
Despite featuring some creative brainteasers, Unmechanical: Extended is hampered by its lack of meaningful plot, little replay value and unfortunately brisk length.