If I had to place a single sentence anecdote to go along with my general thoughts on Unmechanical, that its a very short but sweet ride through a wonderful and yet disturbing embodiment of flesh and machine. Developed by Swedish team Talawa Games, Unmechanical originally started as a student project. At its core, it’s a rather simple to grasp side-scrolling adventure, that will likely draw comparisons to other similar cinematic-driven platformers such as Another World, or more recently, Limbo. However, instead of placing you in the shoes of a two-legged homosapien, Unmechanical declares the hell with shoes altogether, and has you take on the role of a flying but cute little trash compactor who has been mysteriously captured and held captive against his own will.
I joke when I say trash compactor. Our not-so-unmechanical, expressionless friend actually uses a propeller placed on his (her, its?) head to get around, negating the whole “jumping” thing we’ve come to expect in most platforming games. He’s not only indestructible, but also houses a gravitational beam under his tuchus. Initially, this is the only real tool you’ll have to get around in your mysterious prison. Essentially, the gravitational beam can be used to pickup and carry objects, toss them on top of other objects (sometimes a switch), or pulling levers. Later in the game, you do acquire additional means to transverse through more inaccessible areas, but that’s about it in terms of upgrades. Metroid, this certainly isn’t.
Puzzles in themselves normally do not require extraneous work to figure out but scale quite well in terms of overall difficulty. Some are usually as simple as placing a rock on top of a button, to identifying patterns in the environments, or having to place explosives on exposed pieces of a meat (No, seriously). The controls are plenty initiative for you to understand the basics within the first few minutes of the intro sequence, and if you so desire, gamepad support is available. I would certainly recommend this to those who don’t normally play titles that emphasize on reaction speed, since character death simply does not exist here. Despite the well-rounded use of physics in-game, puzzles predominately have single solutions, meaning you’re not going to do a lot of experimentation, mostly lots of fidgeting. And despite the implied presence of a hub area towards the beginning, progression overall is fairly linear.
For the longest time, I wasn’t aware of any sort of hint system in place. It wasn’t until near the end of my robotic tyke’s journey that I came upon an area that I couldn’t seem to put my finger on. Stupefied, that I was! So like any disgruntled, impatient bugger, I checked the Steam forums for any hints, and voila. Pressing the F1 key brings up a thought bubble, revealing how to solve my now short-lived dilemma. Rest assured, when I saw how simple the solution actually was, I felt a lot less ashamed not earning that No Hints Used achievement. These devs had me. They had me good.
Utilizing the Unreal Development Kit or UDK as its engine, Unmechincal houses consistently terrific display of art design and clever uses of lighting. More often than not, I would find myself getting emotionally invested into how my surroundings would change as I go, with its adherence to what can be basically likened to utter mad science. It really feels like you’re going through an elaborate lab experiment, clashed with but glimpses of a large, filthy monstrosity. Equally deserving of praise is the sound design. The music orchestrated by Jonas Kjellberg sets the tone and mood of your adventure, effortlessly matching to the pace of moving through one puzzle to the next.
If there’s any real complaint one could have with Unmechanical, is that its just over so soon. I clocked in at about 3 hours, counting the alternative ending. Because the game wasn’t really designed with any replay value, there are a number of Steam achievements that could somewhat prolong your play time, but probably not by much. While Talawa Games aren’t against doing additional DLC, that ultimately depends on their success in sales. For a new game studio’s first effort, it’s quite the accomplishment. Unmechanical’s focus on creating a memorable experience in such a short span of time is a feat not to be taken lightly, and I look forward to knowing more about its overall narrative.