Publisher: Grip Games
Developer: Grip Games
Release Date: 02/10/2015
One of the many boons the digital revolution has bestowed is that exclusive games are simply becoming an endangered species. If you see a downloadable game on one system, it’s bound to show up on the others at some point as well. Take Unmechanical, for example. This game first found life on PC, was brought over to mobile phones, and now makes the journey to modern consoles as well. Like the best crossovers though, UE isn’t simply a port. It adds a whole new chapter for players to explore. This makes this the definitive version of the game.
You play as a little flying robot. One day, said robot is floating about with his buddies when he’s pulled into the ground by a metal tube and trapped in the middle of a giant metallic city. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Naturally, you’ll help him solve puzzles and open doors so that he can fly away home.
The whole thing is done in a minimalist nature. There are no cutscenes, there are no words, and there isn’t even any text to tell you what’s going on. This is a visual game, but that doesn’t mean it loses any charm. In fact, your mostly silent little buddy will quickly grow on you. This is especially true in the bonus chapter. You’ll really want to see him succeed.
Visually, the game looks phenomenal. Though limited in terms of variety, the underground city is a virtual playground of gears, valves, and all around machinery. There is a lot of detail in each background, to the point where you’re disappointed that you can’t interact with it all. It has a dark yet glowing look that simply pops off the screen. There’s also good use of color. Though there’s a lot of gray and silver, the developers knew to add just a splash of bright here and there. The only downside is that sometimes the game’s physics cause some problems. These come in the form of items glitching through walls or performing in other manners than just aren’t possible. It’s a small blemish on an overall beautiful presentation.
When it comes to the game’s audio, the minimalist approach is in full effect again. The music is more about ambiance and setting the mood as opposed to being flamboyant and over the top. It’s almost creepy at times, but it’s all entertaining. There’s also a surprising amount of variety here, with different sections of the game having their own themes. My favorite was a more upbeat clock-based song that played as I passed through a room with giant gears. Much of the game’s charm comes from the music, but also the sound effects. The little robot is downright adorable with his little sounds that he makes.
Keeping up the theme, the gameplay for UE is also quite minimal. You basically move with either of the sticks. As a flier, your bot is free to move in all directions, though there’s often walls and other obstacles to maneuver about. Any other button activates the bot’s tractor beam. You use this to pick up objects, activate switches, and other such things. That’s it for gameplay. There are no fancy button combos to remember, weapon wheels to manage, or stats to max. It’s just moving and pressing one button.
You’d think this approach might make the puzzles limited. To the contrary, the ability to manipulate objects while flying around makes for some interesting puzzles indeed. For example, at one point you need to get a bomb over to a switch. There are a couple of problems. First, the bomb is immediately activated when you grab it and will blow up quickly. Secondly, the path to the switch is blocked by lasers that will detonate the bomb if they come into contact with it. The solution involves tossing the bomb through some tubes that shoot in out and blocking the lasers with your body. It’s really nifty. Some more basic puzzles find new life in this game as well. For example, there’s one puzzle where you have to activate switches so that the machinery matches the rhythmic notes coming out of a speaker.
What really makes the game work though, is the sense of exploration. There are no tutorials or signs that tell you where to go. You won’t know if you can pick something up or do something until you try. When an experiment works, it feels good. There are also several points in the game where you have a degree of freedom in how you do things. While most of the puzzles really only have one solution, some can be solved several ways. There are even areas where you can take different paths at different times. This really helps the game world feel alive as opposed to a linear set of challenges.
Your first time through the game will take you probably three to four hours depending on your comfort level with puzzles. The bonus episode can probably add about another hour to that. Though there are technically two different endings, this doesn’t really add to the replay value. For starters, you can simply load your last save and see the alternate ending in a matter of seconds. Also, once you know how the puzzles work, you can blow through the game in half an hour.
Speaking of the bonus chapter, I might as well get into that now. In this scenario, your robot is basically on a date with another robot when he and she are once again kidnapped by a pipe in the ground. Your goal is to find her and get out. There’s more of a sense of teamwork here, even if she is AI controlled and only ever acts in the background. It feels like they could have done a lot more with this concept, but it’s fun while it lasts.
I should note that I came across one section of the game where an item I needed to progress disappeared. I guess I forgot to take it with me at first, and it vanished when I went back to look for it. This caused me to have to restart the extra chapter from the beginning. It didn’t take long to get back to where I was (even though it was the end of the chapter), but the problem caused me no end of frustration as I tried to figure out why I couldn’t progress. It’s not a problem that occurs frequently, but it’s definitely a major potential issue.
Short Attention Span Summary
Unmechanical Extended is a fun puzzle game with a lot of heart and charm. Though its short and lacks replay value, it’s great while it lasts. The new chapter definitely adds some value to the original game. It offers a different play style and some interesting puzzles in its own right. If you haven’t tried Unmechanical yet or simply want more of it, this is definitely a game you should check out.