Review: The Machine
How about a platform game that's trapped inside a technical drawing? A game that is as challenging as it is artistic? And a game that the iOS and Android clans would love to have on their platform. Well tough, 'The Machine' is ours!
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
Developed by Ij Farstall, The Machine is a game with two modes. The first is a level-based approach, with thirty levels bundled into the game. These are challenging, placing the focus on moving as quickly as possible and reaching the exit in as few moves as possible. The second is the arcade option, where you simply need to keep ahead of the rising tide that is climbing up the screen.
Both modes have the same controls and mechanisms, and I suspect your favourite will come down to the mood you are in - the analytical logical time of day, or the all out of panic of trying to jump ever higher.
At its heart, The Machine is a platform game. Rather than guide a hedgehog or a plumber, this title goes for something a little more out there, and has you moving a blob of ink through 'a machine'. As you move around, you can collect tiny droplets of ink that can be collected to give you a little more protection, as 'ink remaining' is one of the factors measured at the end of each level, at least in the challenge mode (points are scored in the arcade made).
The Machine also has a fantastic look to it. Built around the theme of a technical drawing, there is a very shallow grey grid as the background wallpaper, while the main objects in the game, including your ink, are in dense, dark, black. It's a stylish look, but it's not an easy one to pull off successfully unless you really focus on the look. Which Farsall has. From the opening menu screen, to the level choice and results, and into the actual game, I can't fault the implementation of the colourless theme.
Playing The Machine is built around the touch-screen interface. You don't directly control your ink blob, but you tap on the screen, and the ink blob will try to make a direct jump to this point. Of course gravity is going to come into play and unless it's a straight up jump some graceful arcs will be drawn in the air as the blob moves around the screen. Thankfully surface tension makes this gaming world cohesive, so once you hit a wall or object your blob is going to stay there.
The first level or two ask you to use the walls to climb up the screen, zig-zagging across the game area, but it doesn't take long for the devilish level design to come into play. Spinning cogs will be your next challenge, which you can land on from any angle but you can only jump straight off from, so you need to tap when they have spun to the correct angle. Or how about the deadly spikes you need to draw your way through without losing too much ink?
Let's be clear here, anyone who knows my history in games like this knows that I prefer my games to be on the difficult side, with a learning curve that is challenging and always rising. Far too many games have a delightful mechanism or control system and then spoil it with levels that are far too easy. I'm delightfully frustrated to say that this is not the case with The Machine. It's hard, it's constantly one step ahead of where I think my skill level is, and I'm a happier gamer for it.
This might not be to everyone's liking, but this is an ad-supported title so there's very little stopping you giving it a go. I'd certainly recommend it because it manages to feel new and unique, at the same time as having a classical feel and recycling the best elements of the platform games from my youth.
The Machine is a title I would definitely recommend, but do clear the room of anything breakable first when you fail level three for the eleventh time!
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at