• youtube

Button Mash

The Dream Machine, Claymation Goodness.

Another arty point and click adventure? Ah, gw’on then.. Last one for a while I swear. Here’s a beaut’ from Cockroach Inc.

The Dream Machine is a clay and cardboard styled piece of animated game cake. Some that played video games in the 90’s will recognise the rare style, familiar with other titles like Neverhood and ClayFighter 63â…“.

Mr. Victor Neff and his hormonal pregnant wife have just moved into their first apartment together, and they’re both having weird dreams. This story explores the realm of the unconscious, specifically the dreams of all the tenants in Victor’s building. And the plot device that facilitates this bizarre story? A sentient machine in the basement that feeds on the dreams of the people around it. Victor must face this machine in its own realm to save his fellow tenants and his wife from becoming comatose, and an easy meal for the machine.

The dreams conjured up in the minds of the tenants are gorgeously crafted in equal parts morbid and magic. Advertising for the game generally makes a big deal about how it’s only made of clay and cardboard, and for good reason. There’s a lot of very skilled craftsmanship involved in the making of smoothly rendered claymation, which is quite likely why there are so few claymation games in existence. But given the nature of indie games, having to create games that stand out from the big sellers, it really brings this game into its own league.

I totally don't feel violated at all..

There’s a lot of dialogue in this game, but no voice acting. Being a fan of great voice acting I feel let down that I have to read such text heavy puzzles. I’m not entirely lazy, but having to read through all the text kinda diminished the games re-playability. Exploring the game for the first time gives you a great opportunity to enquire and learn about the different characters, but I wouldn’t want to have to go through this mountain of text a second time knowing the answer to each puzzle but having to blunder through a lot of reading. Though this is a minor criticism in full view of a great piece of art.

Amazingly though, there’s only two devs working on this game, Anders Gustafsson & Erik Zaring, who between them create the sets & characters and program in the animations & mechanics. With some very generous and credited help, Gustafsson and Zaring have revived a redundant and challenging game format and turned it into a mysterious and sometimes disturbing tale.

Just, awesome..

Currently, only three out of the five chapters of the game have been completed. So for the time being this is a game to invest in. You can buy individual chapters separately, though both chapters one and two come together on Steam. Or you can buy all five as a bundle so that your collection becomes complete as soon as the newest chapters become available, and you save a bit of money.
The first two chapters on their own are regrettably short. But I find this forgivable given that as the rest of the game is still under development and it’s not yet finished. I will hastily point out that the third chapter is significantly improved, both in puzzle mechanics and in style. So once all five chapters become available, you’ll find the game is just as long as any other, but twice as enjoyable for its unique visual perspective. Plus you can be very assured that the quality of game can only get better as new chapters are released.

I’ll be eagerly returning to this game once it’s complete.

Available on Steam here, or if you want to support Cockroach Inc. directly, here. But by all means, there’s a demo on both sites, you don’t need to take my word for how awesome The Dream Machine is.


~ Scribble

Botanicula, Terry Gilliam would be proud.

After reviewing Machinarium a few months back, I felt such an affinity with the style that I was compelled to check out what other works of wonder Amanita Design had previously come up with. And not only did I find a back log of creative gorgeousness, I also prepared myself for their newest release, Botanicula.
But not before trying out the free to play samples on their website. Here I first tried Samorost, a free point and explore game from 2003. From here it’s easy to see where the grass-roots of Machinarium and Botanicula were formed. Even in AD’s early stages as developers, they managed to graft together a scrumptiously unique world. Splicing stock images of organic wood textures, aged gears and valves, overlaid with hand drawn interactables and characters.
Although painfully short and in some areas lacking resolution, Samorost set a nice benchmark for its sequel Samorost 2. You can also play the first chapter of this game for free here, well worth a try.

And now AD pitches its newest characters into a beautifully unforgiving world of tiny point and click adventures. Mr. Lantern, Mr. Twig, Mr. Poppy Head, Mr. Feather and Mrs. Mushroom, a loveable bunch. Set on an adventure to safeguard the last seed of their home tree and to stop the corruption of an evil parasite that’s spreading through their world.


I tripped six kinds of balls playing this game. Be prepared for nothing to make any kind of sense, and to be able to make a lot of seemingly wrong and pointless interactions, with amusing sound effects.. Botanicula takes puzzle solving to a new level by making your goals simple, but how to achieve them very difficult to understand. You’ll be asked to find keys, turkeys, conker babies and a host of other bizarre objects, even where to use them becomes very obvious. But how to obtain said objects.. Utterly incomprehensible and very trial and error based.
Unlike Machinarium, you engage more with your surroundings, hovering and dragging some objects as opposed to just clicking and consuming them. And when most of your environment reacts to your cursor, it becomes challenging to know just where to start, so click, drag and hover over EVERYTHING!
Also unlike Machinarium, you’ll not be given any kind of in-game hints to decipher the cryptic tasks at hand. But cleverly, all interactions count for something in the grand scheme. Throughout the game you’ll be presented with cards for every creature you successfully interact with. And with one hundred and twenty-three cards, you can tell there’s an impressive amount of character design gone into this game. And the more you collect, the more prizes you’ll be presented on completion of the game.


Botanicula is just so endearing! The seer amount of immersion you can have with this game, coupled with a multitude of strange and wonderful characters really gives Botanicula a charm that quickly dissipates the frustration of not knowing where you should be going or how to find what you should be looking for. And instead flips it into curiosity.
The map feature, coupled with basic symbols that roughly sum up what goes on in each map section will quite easily guide you through the twisting maze of branches, roots and general foliage. Without this it would quickly become confusing navigating from place to place. Becoming accustomed to the set up is very easy, it even gets relaxing to play through once you’ve begun to understand the inner workings and methods of the game.

The critters you’ll meet all through your journey have their own little duties to perform, helpful, hindering or just for their own amusement. Constantly check what unique items you’ve procured on your travels, eggs, beach balls, idols, worms, they’re all useful in one way or another and as a bit of a hint, you’ll only be able to drag them off the tool bar once you’ve entered the right scene you need to use them in.

I just don't understand!

Something I’m very glad AD changed about the game play is the speed at which the characters move. Guiding Josef on his journey through Machinarium was at times frustratingly slow. But these critters move very quickly across the map, allowing you to explore much faster.. Easing the irritation caused by not know where you need to be and what exactly you should be doing.

It has the tell-tale flare of AD’s masterful blending of textures, but with a much brighter and cheery atmosphere than its predecessors. Even after a quick play through you’ll come to appreciate the effort AD’s small team of graphic designers have put into yet another master piece. These games really are an art form, akin to something cooked up in the mind of Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and his legendary cut-out animations.

With this much raw talent for story telling without conventional verbal means, it’s difficult not to get drawn into the plot. Another game well done.

You can view trailers and buy Botanicula on Steam here, or direct from Amanita Design’s website here.

Look out for Samorost 3!



It’s 3am & I’m still playing Machinarium.

Set in a lovingly hand painted mechanical city, Amanita Design’s point-and-click-style adventure boasts a stunning array of scenes for you to indulge and drool over. Each frame allowing you to interact with seemingly unconnected objects which, when combined in the correct sequence of events, allows you to progress forward.

Your robot hero, Josef (named after Josef ÄŒapek) must travel through the outs and innards of a rusted city. Armed only with the ability to consume and regurgitate useful gubbins at will and extend or contract his body to reach objects and switches at different heights. The goal to is to combine all manner of resources to open ways to the next frame as well as to solve classic arcade style puzzles. Along your urban adventure you’ll meet a plethora of amazingly designed characters, each robot unique and all play a small part. Some you’ll aid by running errands and others you’ll thwart with cunning puzzle mastery.

Starting out in the game, you’ll have a simple introduction in how to interact with the world around you. If you can reach it, and it’s of importance, then pick it up or fiddle with it. No matter how seemingly useless that stick is or why you have to make that large extractor fan angry.. Just do it.. I didn’t find a single item or interaction pointless after discovering its use. And it’s all very entertaining watching everything fall into place, this game is filled with individual animations for everything Josef has to work with.

The games intriguing approach to story telling relies only on thought bubbles, there’s no pretending that these robots have any kind of limited facial expressions or ability to talk conventionally. But nevertheless, this unique take on story telling allows for a charming and simple way of conveying the plot. And the visuals more than make up for holding your interest. After all, what could be more simple or fulfilling than a robot struggling to save his kidnapped lady-bot and defuse a bomb strapped to the highest spire in the city. A timeless cliché that doesn’t diminish the games charisma or distract from the feeling of accomplishment on completing each puzzle.

The game’s inbuilt walkthrough feature is something I’ve not come across before. A locked book icon in the top right hand corner of the screen links you to a frustratingly slow and merciless mini-game in which you have to manoeuvre a key to shoot spiders and avoid crashing into bricks. Hitting either will force you to start again or give up. But once completed, the book yields the the steps you have to take to move forward. With the game’s curious style of puzzles this book can be a saviour if endured. There were a few times at 3am when my feeble mind couldn’t handle the complexity of navigating different sized lines or squares through mazes. And so turning to the book helped ease the progression and flow of the game somewhat. As menial as this feature is, it forces you to really think weather you need the extra help or not. Which is a step up from games like ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’s Help Button. But to be fair if you can complete that game without that button chances are you’re not very well equipped to deal with how banal the world really is.. As a bonus, when you unlock the book you get a lovely hand drawn step by step guide to what you need to do in the particular frame you’re in. Be warned though, if what you need to do isn’t in the frame your standing in, you’ll have to move on and start the mini game again in a different location.

My only real gripe with the game is how slow Josef walks from place to place. But that stems from years of playing fast paced hack and slash games, where if it’s not dead in two minutes you’ll be eaten alive.. But give this game some patience and you won’t be disappointed..

Developed over three years on a shoe-string budget of $1000, this game has been built with the care and attention of some astonishing people. To sum up, Machinarium is gorgeous. It’s delicious for your eyes, and a puzzling treat for your brain. Go play it!