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Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2009). Amanita Design. Designed by Jakub Dvorský. Platforms: Lin, Mac, Win (2009); iOS, Phone (2011).

Machinarium is a graphical Adventure, developed as an Independent Game and set in a fairytale "City of Robots". As in such earlier works as Another World (1991), a broadly linear story is told entirely without dialogue, though thought balloons containing informative images are sometimes employed (see Interactive Narrative). The game's setting is notably decrepit, a battered and rusted inner city environment in which humanity's role is taken by an entirely artificial population, while animals are replaced by mechanical birds and clockwork dogs. This milieu is, however, presented with much joy and lightness of touch, an approach epitomized by the design of the player character, a curiously Chaplinesque "little robot".

The game's backstory emerges only slowly, and in fragments, as the player makes their way through its sequence of generally well-constructed puzzles. Initially, the player's robot has been discarded on a scrapheap, and must reassemble himself from the scattered pieces of his body. Eventually it becomes clear that the main character's task is to rescue his Significant Robot from a vicious gang of mechanical punks while defusing a bomb they have planted in the city. Machinarium's heroic protagonist appears to be nameless, but the game's developers have indicated that he should be called Josef, in memory of Josef Čapek – who first suggested the use of the word robot to designate the artificial servants in his brother Karel Čapek's play R.U.R. (1920), and who, like the members of Amanita Design, was a Czech. Ultimately, Machinarium is an amusing cartoon, frequently reminiscent of the work of Tim Burton, and similarly charming and sophisticated. [NT]


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