Unmechanical: Extended,a puzzler with a short life span

It’s nice to pay homage sometimes, to reflect on great experiences and pay tribute to them with a new creative endeavour, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a great game. Unmechanical could hardly be called a clone or rip-off that would be entirely unfair but it doesn’t shy away from making it apparent what games it was inspired by. And while its distillation of those ideas is entirely inoffensive, it doesn’t make for anything all that inspiring.

As you work your way through this 2.5D world there are lots of really great games that come to mind. The structure has some of that classic metroidvania feel as you unlock new areas and backtrack through old. The use of lasers and energy ports as well as the decrepit landscape brings to mind Portal. And the art style feels very heavily influenced by Machinarium. All great games, packed with character and details, but Unmechanical isn’t these games. It takes from them, but lacks their depth, personality or genuine challenge.

Purely on a genre level, it doesn’t make for much of a puzzle game. As you hover around the world grabbing objects and unlocking areas, there’s not a single brainteaser there that offers any great resistance. It all just seems rather apparent and that might be okay if the solving of these puzzles was driven by some strong narrative component or an immediate threat like Portal did so well, but that’s not there. It’s just the puzzles and a run-down world.

And the simplicity of it all wouldn’t be so bad either, if it at least escalated over time or really mixed things up with new abilities or tricks as the game went on. That almost appears to have been acknowledged as you do unlock the ability to move underwater at one point, but that’s it. That’s the one significant upgrade your hovering robot attains and shortly thereafter the game’s over anyway. You could easily blitz through this in under an hour, which is no great shame, but Unmechanical feels like it’s teasing and promising so much by drawing from other great titles, you spend the entire time waiting for it to kick into the next gear.

Which doesn’t come. What you get instead is an unsatisfying split-ending decision to make and it’s all over. Unmechanical nods its head at deeper meaning and metaphor, but doesn’t offer any in the end. The ‘Extended’ part of this version is an extra 20 to 30 minutes of additional campaign that carries a little more emotional impact, intimating at a robotic parent-child relationship, but it’s over rather quickly. Nice enough, but not exactly groundbreaking.

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