By Matt Gosper
Until about a week ago, I honestly hadn’t heard of Unmechanical. I also hadn’t realised that ‘unmechanical’ was even a word (it still isn’t). Nevertheless, after learning of it and playing through the game itself, I have to say that Talawa Games and Teotl Studios’ new action-puzzler effort is worth a look.
This game features very little in the way of story – in fact, you won’t find a single bit of text or dialogue throughout the entire game. At the outset, one of a group of flying robots is snatched out of the sky and deposited deep underground in The Underworld, where it (assumably) sets out to return to the surface and be on its merry way.
You play through the game as this unnamed drone, navigating a bizarre maze of tunnels and chambers that combine both mechanical and organic components. Your little ‘bot has nothing in the way of limbs – merely a propeller to keep him afloat and a surprisingly powerful tractor beam. You’ll find yourself flying about, picking up bits and pieces and solving puzzles in your quest to escape.
This game really shines due to the fact it doesn’t REQUIRE any tutorials or dialogue to teach you or pull you through the game – after a single thought-bubble at the outset to let you know you have a tractor beam, you’re pretty much left to figure it out yourself. New mechanics and environmental factors are drip-fed to you in a way that lets you teach yourself, without ever feeling tedious. You’ll find yourself building on your knowledge to solve increasingly complex and difficult puzzles – with a few real brain-scratchers towards the end.
Visually the game has some real polish. The environment is displayed in the increasingly common 2.5D format – a 2D playing plane with detailed 3D foreground and backgrounds. Whilst its textures aren’t the highest resolutions you’ll ever see, everything fits together in a way that really builds a sense of atmosphere about the world of the Undergound. Subtle visual clues help indicate what elements of the environment can eb interacted with, such as the handles of tunnel access doors turning red when they can be opened. Your ‘bot also has a bit of personality to it despite its simplistic design; when lugging something heavy around it’ll flip sideways or upside down as it pulls with its tractor beam, its little tendril-arms will flap about in accordance with its movements, and the lights that serve as eyes will blink out for a second if you run it into a wall accidentally.
This strong visual style is accompanied well by an equally distinct game soundtrack. Much like the game world, the soundtrack is a mish-mash, with equal parts instrumental and electronica music. Overall it reminded me strongly of the Portal 2 soundtrack, with its flair for digitized sound. Environmental sounds are well done as well, with your nameless ‘bot bleeping, blooping and generally grumbling as you bump him around the place.
In the endgame, you’re given two options for the ending, although you’d be forgiven for not realising it thanks to the game’s minimal interface. Nevertheless, Unmechanical is a strong puzzler title that deserves a look. It’s got a level of polish that more and more indie games are striving for, and should definitely be rewarded if this is the end result.