I rated Unmechanical when I reviewed it back in... 2012?! Wow. How time flies. Either way, this charming physics-based puzzler captivated me for its four hour duration.
"Unmechanical provides four wonderful hours of mechanically-perfect puzzling, trapping you willingly in its gorgeous labyrinth for the duration," a younger and somewhat slimmer version of me wrote. "Despite a couple of issues and a slight lack of real innovation, Unmechanical joins the wealth of fantastic student projects that evolved into excellent games, and provides an experience that's more polished and balanced than any number of big-budget titles I could mention. It's time (and money) well spent."
Nearly three years later and Unmechanical has returned, this time on PS3, PS4 and Xbox One as a new "Extended" Edition. The good news is that it's just as sweet as it ever was.
The bad news, sadly, is that the "Extended" version hasn't been extended by very much at all.
To recap, in case you didn't click through to my original review, Unmechanical is an elegantly designed puzzler powered by a robust physics engine. After an adorable hovering robot finds himself (itself?) trapped in an underground facility, you'll have to guide your adorable hovering pal to the surface and through a series of environmental obstacles. Beyond its rotorblades, the robot's sole ability is provided by a tractor beam mounted to its bum, which you'll use to pick things up. And put them down. Sometimes in different places.
No, really, that's all Unmechanical has to offer. Picking things up and putting them down. And it's brilliant.
See, this incredibly simple mechanic has been shoehorned into a fantastic selection of puzzles that require you to think about items, liquids and substances as real physical objects, using their real-world properties to circumvent a tough yet never unfair selection of pressure plates, logic problems and mechanisms. Everything from electricity to gravity, lasers and water displacement gets a few minutes in the sun, as does basic spatial awareness and working out exactly how to use a limited number of objects to achieve your desired result.
Unmechanical succeeds on its pacing, though. It's gentle -- you can't die despite some of the dangerous-looking gear you'll encounter -- yet firm, providing just enough friction to satisfy without feeling unfair or brutal. Better yet, you'll feel like you've solved every solution yourself through your own ingenuity, no mean feat considering that almost every puzzle has a single 'right' solution.
The story is barely there, simple, allegorical and entirely delivered through hints and snippets in the art direction, but allows for a degree of interpretation and two alternate endings. To be honest I actually prefer it to puzzlers that try to clumsily beat a pretentious theme or narrative into me, Limbo included. I also love its art design, which features a cool colour palette and big chunky mechanical design elements strewn about the place.
I've mentioned that it's short, but it's also appropriately sized and priced, ending on a high rather than dragging on. It's a joy to play something perfectly formed, and I'd actually recommend playing through the whole lot in one go to enjoy it to the full.
So Unmechanical is great. But you already knew that. I've just described the same game that released two years ago, which has received no appreciable graphical updates and absolutely no changes to its campaign as far as I can work out.
In fact, beyond some surprisingly enjoyable achievements that reward you for messing about and having fun, the only new content comes in the form of a short new episode that bolts onto the end.
Blink and you'll miss it. This insubstantial wafer of content adds little to the game, with only a handful of puzzles and none that match the enjoyable pacing and ingenuity of the original. Some sections feel padded and sluggish, either artificially crippling you or forcing you to plough through some repetitive tasks. Even the story feels like an afterthought; I see what they were trying to do, but we don't know enough about our robot and haven't spent enough time with him/it to really care about the second branching ending.
Which is why, nearly three years on, I find myself looking slightly less favourably at Unmechanical. It's still short and sweet, but offering little to justify a re-release and almost nothing to tempt back those who already played it. If you haven't, though, I'd highly recommend you do -- even if you save it for a rainy slow weekend.
- Perfectly-paced, satisfying and gentle puzzling
- Deeply relaxing soundtrack, evocative art direction
- Four hours well spent and priced appropriately (not including achievement hunting and alternate ending)
- New extended episode is forgettable, inferior and fleeting
- No appreciable graphical updates, intro/ending sequences look primitive
- Almost no new content to justify the re-release
The Short Version: Unmechanical Extended is just as short and sweet as the original; a gentle yet compelling use of four hours that's best enjoyed in a single sitting. I'd recommend it to newcomers, but the disappointing new episode isn't enough to warrant picking up for old hands.
7 - GOOD: Some sites seem to think that the halfway point between 1-10 is 7. This is not the case. It should be noted that 7 is not just a perfectly respectable score, it's a good score. A 7 is not an indication of failure, nor is it the mark of a bad, poor or even average game. These are titles that can be considered very worthwhile, but maybe come with a caveat. Frequently the domain of the well-made-if-rather-conventional brigade.
Platform: PS3 | PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)