Unmechanical: Extended, An improved Journey through a World of Flesh

Unmechanical: Extended is an improved version of  the  original  physics-based  adventure  puzzler, developed by Grip Games, Teotl Studios, and Talaway Games available for PS3, PS4, and Xbox One consoles. The game already holds a special place in my heart as an amalgam of adorable character design, a weird and creepy  world that is also deeply explorable and full of puzzles, and a story centered around a robot looking to escape.

Unmechanical: Extended puts players in control of a small robot that is pulled into an underground beast made up of dark caverns, mechanizations, pipes, caverns, and eerie fleshy environments. Each room is filled with several different physics-based puzzles, each unique to the other through the premise, solution, and avail-able objects. The bot is able to fly anywhere on the 2D screen, and can pick up moveable objects like rocks, steel rods, and bombs. With this ability, the robot interacts with the world, flicking switches, moving weights to buttons, jamming steel rods into mechanisms, and so on. The puzzles are balanced with standard problems, like memorizing a particular sequence, to more abstract problem-solving, such as jamming alternating doors to keep both at least partially open.

The robot can provide minor solution hints at the push of a button, should players have need of it. However, this feature cannot be used to find the ‘right’ path or tunnel within the level. Navigating through the game is non-linear, which is great for replayability, but makes it difficult to know where players need to go next. The best advice for this is to try every door, and every path, until one opens up a new location, and a new puzzle to solve.

The graphics have seen an improvement for next-gen consoles, but remain subtly simple and well-used to establish the atmospheric, ever-changing world. Dark lighting, shadows, and a mix of different far off backgrounds give the 2D game a 3D experience, as players can stare at a far-off volcano in a cavern or an endless clog of steam and gears in the distance. The game approaches the flesh nature of the creature with grotesque imagery, such as the room with the beast’s beating heart.

The story for Unmechanical: Extended is fairly simple, following a robot as it begins its difficult journey to freedom from the strange innards of the beast. The game also features an alternate ending, and a never before seen episode specific to this new and improved version. The story for the new episode is definitely different, following a pair of robots as they are pulled into the beast without warning. Players control the blue robot as it searches for its smaller companion, each following a different path through the beast and assisting each other along the way through puzzles different from the original story.

The game features no dialogue, and only a very light soundtrack that focuses on the dark and lonely atmosphere of each level. This adds to the mystery of the game’s story, though it might also make the story progression a little hard to follow for the player. At the same time, it adds focus to the many clangs, beats, and other sounds that make up each level, and the slow-paced music itself.

The game itself is actually a little short, maybe no more than an hour or two. Replayability is dependent on the player’s memory of the puzzles. Players who have gone through the original Unmechanical will at least have more content to go through thanks to the new episode, and can experience the original game with better graphics, and a new control style. Other than that, the game appears to be mostly the same.

Unmechanical: Extended was a lot of fun to go through, offering easy-to-learn controls and increasingly complicated puzzles to solve. Each puzzle feels unique and tests the player’s ability with logic, memory, and standard problem-solving, providing a suitable challenge without being too frustrating. There are certainly moments within the game where players can get stuck, but turning to the robot’s hints or simply taking a moment to rest between playthroughs can help. The game is innovative in the way it has been designed, and by how immersive the strange world appears. Puzzle-makers from other games could stand to learn a few things from these developers as well, as they each seem to take strides to offer a different sort of challenge than the one before it.

Unmechanical: Extended is currently available for $9.99 on next generation consoles. In my opinion, that’s a reasonable price for a short, yet well-made game. Though there’s a story for both episodes within the game, the real reward comes in the challenging gameplay itself, and the creativity needed for each solution.

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