Adventure games on handhelds and home consoles historically haven't fared too well, due to a reliance on traditional control schemes using sticks and buttons.
But on the latest generation of touchscreen-sporting portables they seem to be slowly building a respectable library of point-and-click titles.
Not only is Machinarium a damn good adventure to begin with, but it's also a superb example of how to port a point-and-click game to Vita, using every trick in the book to provide a near-flawless transition.
Do the robot
We'll kick off with the game itself. Machinarium is ace: it's a traditional adventure set in a grimy, oil-smeared world of rust and tin, set against an ambient and almost ghostly soundtrack. There's no language in the game, and no voice acting. Like Escape Plan, it says everything it needs to visually.
You're a robot that has been dumped outside the city walls, and must make your way back in to save your robotic girlfriend, solving devious puzzles and thwarting some evil bullies along the way. It's a simple story, told in a not so simple way - you enter in medias res and piece together the bits you missed along the way.
The inhabitants of the city are an odd bunch: all robotic, but displaying very human characteristics ranging from nervousness and addiction to compassion and despair.
Starting out tough, and never relenting too much from then on, many of the puzzles act as significant barriers to progress, even with the walkthrough that you can refer to at any time. There's a hint system, if you just need a poke in the right direction, but it's nevertheless a slow-moving experience.
To make things slightly harder, you also can't see whether items and scenery elements are useful to you until you get close to them. But if you're an adventure game fan, the gameplay is otherwise very much the standard formula, albeit without dialogue.
What impressed me most about Machinarium is the quality of the port. Having already finished the game on PC, I thought I wouldn't be able to easily adapt to the Vita. However, there are whip-smart additions that almost leave you thinking this was designed for the Vita from the ground up.
You can use the left analogue stick to move the cursor, with a tap of the Cross button interacting with the element you highlight. The right stick adjusts your robot's height (so that he can reach areas just out of reach), which proves an invaluable addition to the control scheme - as does the ability to tap Square and instantly move to your inventory.
Once you close the inventory, your cursor jumps back to its previous position on the screen, a thin white circle quickly targeting it to provide a visual motif for your eyes to follow, letting you get back to adventuring rather than search the screen for an easily lost cursor.
The cursor will also snap to a point of interest if you're close enough to it. Remember how you'd hunt through pixel after pixel in the older adventure games? That simply doesn't happen in Machinarium.
You needn't use the sticks, though - you can swipe about the screen or rear touchpad to move the cursor, a double-tap serving as the 'action' button. It's not as fast as a mouse, but it's easily comparable to playing on a laptop with a trackpad.
If hunting Trophies is your thing, then you'll be pleased to read that there's support for these in here too, though no Platinum. There's also a wholly pointless internet ranking facility, in which you can compare your completion score with others around the world.
Going into the review for this I expected a strong game at the core, but what surprised me most is how thoughtful this snappy port of a modern classic is. If you're yet to discover the mechanical joys of Machinarium, this is your chance.
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