Indie-ana Jones: Mechanism
Platform: PC available on Steam | Release Date: 7/19/2018
I got pretty excited when I saw Mechanism, it had an interesting plot and the world looked well thought out and very artistic. Mechanism is about a lonely robot trying to figure out how to solve the mystery of a plague that has wiped out his people. You start alone in your room with a large ball of phlegm (what they call the plague) stuck to your little robot. So not only are you trying to solve the mystery but you have to do it before you, yourself die.
Immediately after you wake up, you search the room for anything of use and pick it up. The game felt a little like Ico or Myst, where you have no direction and have to blindly stumble your way around until you kind of figure it out. There isn’t any exposition, you are shown the story, not told. Once you start picking up items, you realize that there is a severe limitation.
You can only carry two items at a time, making inventory management a number one priority. While this doesn’t initially seem like a pain, it quickly becomes one. I was constantly putting stuff down and trying to remember where I put it. Soon enough, I was putting it all in one collection area so I could go back and forth to get it. As you solve more of the puzzles you move on to new areas with new puzzles and more inventory management. I spent more time managing where things were then really anything else. This really takes away from the enjoyment of the game and frustrated me to no end. Resident Evil suffered from this in the first game where you constantly had to back track and waste time because you could only hold a handful of things. This is what you will do a lot in Mechanism.
Stealing the rest of the enjoyment, for me, were the bugs and awful camera controls. While it is nice that you can move the camera anywhere on your own, there is no limit to where it goes. So, in smaller spaces you can constantly end up with the camera in a wall and only able to see a tiny bit of where you need to go. Early on I got stuck, in what I believe was a cave, and fell off a cliff and died. The camera had no angle that I could see except one and it wasn’t good enough to see the cliff to my side. This can be fixed but as of now makes running around extremely frustrating.
The same goes for the bugs, sometimes I would just fly off and die when reading some sign. Before anyone jumps on me about the plague killing me and that’s why it happened, you are wrong. After the first couple of times that I just randomly died, I realized you have to get to these light sticks that drive away the plague for a little while. After that I would be putting a cog in or removing a part and bam I would launch into the sky and die. I don’t know how this wasn’t found during play testing or if it was just ignored to release it by their deadline. There can also be pieces that get stuck in the level or won’t come out of their place. Luckily the developer put a measure in that will return things to their original place.
Going back to dying by the plague, it will happen often if you are not paying good enough attention or haven’t found one of the glow sticks that drives it back. This is a massive hole in the plot, because if that works then why not build huge ones that would protect large areas. As the plague spreads across your body you slow down limiting your speed and mobility, which can be frustrating since the game is already slow moving.
However, the world is artful and has a lot of potential. Unity shines in these types of games. While Mechanism isn’t Ori and the Blind Forest, it is pretty. The color palette is interesting. The world is covered in rust but there are some great pops of color. From mushrooms to the skies above, they add just enough color to make the world a great juxtaposition. Nature being beautiful and technology ugly and bland. They, to me, are making a statement in this respect and it’s a bleak future. The music reflects this. It is dark and moody with few upbeat sections.
It squanders its beauty and story by burying it in bugs, terrible camera controls, and infuriating inventory management. It’s the reason why games like Myst, Riven, and Siberia have not aged well. There are quality of life improvements that have occurred over the last twenty years and now it’s impossible to go back. On a small side note, the controller support is awful and is basically unusable. I suggest you stick with mouse and keyboard. As of now I do not recommend Mechanism. I really hope that over time patches will fix it and make Mechanism a worth while experience.