I like puzzle games. Well, let me rephrase that, I like puzzle games that have easy solutions. Unfortunately, what is the point of making a puzzle game if they’re so easy to solve? As a result, there are a number of games out there with puzzles so tricky and difficult for me to figure out, I can’t help but feel dumb as I browse online for solutions. While challenge can be a good thing, something has to be said for those moments when you hit a brick wall and the constant attempts to solve the puzzle results in minor feelings of insanity. Unmechanical can be a frustrating for this reason, but the inevitable “Eureka!” moment ultimately makes it all worthwhile.
The goal in Unmechanical is to guide a rotund, hapless robot through a subterranean underworld by navigating through all sorts of different physics-based puzzles. The robot doesn’t have much to its name except for a small propellor that lifts him into the air and a tractor beam used for moving switches, objects and puzzle pieces from one place to another. Many of the situations your droid will find itself in require a high level of deduction as puzzles can really put your brain through the ringer. The greatest thrill to be experienced is the coveted “Aha!” moment, in which the solution to a difficult puzzle you’ve struggled with comes to light in a moment of clarity. However, the game has a bad habit of immediately bringing in a harder puzzle that quickly sours the well earned victory.
As there is very little hand holding (I didn’t know about the tractor beam function until I started goofing around with the buttons on my PC controller), my success with a few early puzzles was due to a bit of dumb luck. How did I know that putting a rock on a giant cog would get me to the next area? I don’t know, I was just screwing around. Solutions do not present themselves easily, leading to moments of confusion and minor despair. Mercifully, solving puzzles is all you need to worry about. There are no enemies (apart from the environment) and your robot does not sustain any damage from bombs and such, leaving you free to concentrate on advancing through each area.
Thanks to Epic’s Unreal Engine, Unmechanical inherits strong graphics and exceptional lighting effects. Throughout the adventure, you’ll explore all sorts of cavernous areas, some decidedly creepier than others. The game is another in a long line of side scrolling games that offer a "2.5D" perspective. Although the action primarily takes place on a two dimensional plane, the backgrounds contain a good measure of depth, making the world appear larger than it really is.
Puzzle buffs will enjoy the game’s challenge even though it has the ability to cause a few headaches. If Unmechanical has a failing, it’s that the game doesn’t do too good of a job introducing the players to the physics-based nature of the puzzles. As mentioned earlier, the droid’s ability to pick up objects, use rocks to break giant cogs or activate switches with bombs are almost entirely a result of a player’s own self discovery. During the first few moments of the game, I felt the game was content by throwing me into the action and left to fend for myself. That’s not entirely bad, but it is a bit disorientating.
Unmechanical is a puzzle games that offers a pretty, but all too familiar experience of solving difficult puzzles in order to advance through a subterranean underworld. Easy and minimalistic controls make the game easy enough to pick up for gamers of any skill level, but some of the more complex puzzles may put them off or force them to seek out solutions. If it’s a challenge you seek, Unmechanical will give it to you.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.