A puzzling underground adventure for a cute little flying robot.
Unmechanical, a puzzle game from Talawa Games, was originally released on PC back in 2012 before making its way onto iOS. It was well received and now, nearly three years later, Talawa Games have teamed up with Grip Games to bring the lost little flying robot to the Xbox One, PS4 and PS3, along with an additional chapter in Unmechanical: Extended.
The game begins rather tragically with the cute little robot being torn away from his friends and sucked into some monstrosity of an underground complex. Despite the complete lack of any dialogue or storytelling, it appears obvious that the cute little robot needs to escape, which makes up the entire premise for the main part of the game.
Having no dialogue, nothing to explain what is actually going on, is quite refreshing in that it leaves the player to their own devices and their own imagination. The underground complex is mostly mechanical in nature, with the odd bit of biological matter popping up such as a giant heart or what appear to be the fleshy insides of some creature, and this leads to some suggestion of what is going on. But all that matters is that the little robot wants to leave this place, and it is up to the player to guide them.
There is relatively little to learn here, which is thankful given the lack of direction. The flying robot is controlled with either of the control sticks, whilst most of the face buttons operate his tractor beam, allowing him to interact with objects or move them around. The only other button of use activates a somewhat minimal hint system, where the player will be given advise on how to proceed through a thought bubble and a simplistic image. Half of the time this hint system will just display a question mark, which is of no help to a challenged player. But even when the hints actually come through, they are not always that helpful.
Thankfully, the puzzles are not too difficult. The pacing of the game is very good in that it lets the player work out exactly how to progress for themselves, with some very simple puzzles allowing the player to come to terms with the limited actions of the robot. Use the tractor beam to open a floor hatch, move a lever or simply move a rock blocking the way.
As play progresses, things do get trickier, and half of the puzzle is working out what needs to happen to move forward, before needing to work out how to make it happen. Mirrors, beams of light, bombs set on a timer and even a little musical puzzle will test the player as they try to find their way out, but none of these puzzles are frustratingly difficult.
What can be frustrating though, is working out where to go next. On more than one occasion, the way forward is not obvious and players will find themselves backtracking or wandering around, looking for a new area.
Still, even with getting lost, the main game is easy to complete in under four hours, which is not very long. However, the developers have made this a little more appealing for the console release with an additional chapter.
The extended chapter features, once again, robot peril. But this time things seem a little more straight forward. This time around, the little robots buddy is grabbed and taken underground, and the player follows in a rescue attempt. There is still no story, but at least things seem a little more self explanatory.
The puzzles found in the additional chapter are tighter and more consistently well thought out. They are enjoyable to solve and a lot less time is spent working out where to go. The downside is that the extended chapter is over very quickly, lasting less than an hour.
The lack of narrative may be a problem for those longing to understand the plight of the little robot, but the excellent visuals really do tell their own story. Whilst very dark for the most part, there is an excellent use of lighting and the 2.5d effect which reveals further mysteries deeper in the underground caverns spark the imagination. Unmechanical: Extended is a very good looking game, which is further bolstered by an atmospheric audio track which sets the scene perfectly, whatever that scene may be.
It would have been nice to have some of the questions left by the lack of narrative answered. It would also have been nice for Unmechanical: Extended to be longer, as I was left desperately wanting more. But neither of these things prevent Unmechanical: Extended from being an enjoyable puzzle game and a memorable experience. Highly recommended for a solid evening of puzzle-solving gameplay.