In the glut of recent, independent puzzle games, how does any given game distinguish itself from the pack? Don't ask Unmechanical, the newest puzzler from Talawa Games. With its inspiration displayed so clearly on its sleeve, it struggles to stand out. Yet it's still a fun and clever game with slick visuals and varied puzzles, making it a stimulating trifle that will occupy a pleasant afternoon.
We need this laser to impact the glowing crystal. But how?
Unmechanical's story is told entirely through the visual gameplay; there's no text, no dialogue, and very few symbol or pictogram cues. You play as a little robot with a propeller attached to its head, which allows you to fly around the game's levels at will. As the game progresses, you receive upgrades that give you new powers, generally allowing you to traverse new terrain (such as underwater) or interact with physics objects differently.
For the most part, though, you have only one thing you can do: grab stuff. Using a short-range tractor beam, you can pick up rocks, steel girders, flaming balls of death, and mirrors, among other things. Most puzzles involve positioning these things in various ways to solve puzzles and open doors or receive power spheres. The power spheres are used to power Unmechanical's biomechanical devices (many of which look like human organs). Powering these devices unlocks new areas and more puzzles, and reveals, indirectly, the game's backstory.
Unmechanical feels and plays a lot like a combination of and , if you know those games. If you don't, imagine a standard platformer, add a heavy dose of physics puzzles, take away any combat elements, and tell the story entirely with pictograms. Unfortunately, this last part is where Unmechanical stumbles. Often, the pictograms are confusing or outright unhelpful, and you're likely to find yourself at a loss--not because you can't figure out how to solve a puzzle, but because you simply don't know where to go next or what you're supposed to be doing. Eventually you'll get there by process of elimination, but some indicator arrows or other simplifiers would've reduced some frustration.
You never know what (or who) is lurking behind the scenes.
The puzzles in the game are, for the most part, excellent amd varied, and do a great job of challenging your noggin without being frustrating. One puzzle requires you to play a put-the-ball-in-the-hole game using a gravity-reversal machine; another requires you to search out the right combination of chemical components by observing the world around you and making deductions. Sure, there's plenty of the standard: press-button-with-heavy-object puzzles or bounce-beam-with-mirrors puzzles, but even these are laid out in a way that won't drive you crazy.