Thursday, July 21, 2016

Unmechanical: Extended Review (XONE)

The quality of a puzzle platformer relies entirely, and obviously, in the quality of the puzzles it presents.  If you don’t have clever, varied, and satisfying puzzles to solve, no one will care how cute your flying robot is or how neat the backgrounds are.  That is the problem that Unmechanical: Extended faces – It is just a really easy and boring puzzle game.  It doesn’t do anything particularly poorly, but it won't wow you, either.  See all the details here in our full Unmechanical: Extended review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Grip Digital
  • Developer: Grip Games, Telawa Games, Teotl Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: 2D Platformer
  • Pros: Appealing aesthetic; cute robot; intuitive puzzles
  • Cons: Easy; short; boring
  • MSRP: $10

Unmechanical: Extended features a happy little flying robot that is suddenly separated from its friends and trapped underground.  The rest of the game has you guiding the robot around to solve puzzles and open doors so that it can escape and get back to its friends.

The actual gameplay in Unmechanical: Extended has you flying the little robot around and solving puzzles.  Your only controls are movement with the left stick and pressing a button to activate a sort of tractor beam to move objects around.  That’s it.  The controls feel surprisingly great, though, and are nice and responsive and never hinder what you need to do.

Where Unmechanical: Extended stumbles, however, is that the puzzles it asks you to solve just aren’t very interesting.  You’ll drop rocks onto switches to open doors.  You’ll drop rocks on scales to weigh them down.  You’ll drop rocks into moving gears to stop them.  You’ll use the robot’s body to press buttons.  Later you might move mirrors with the tractor beam to guide laser beams or have to move heavier metal beams.  

Because your abilities are so limited, though, the puzzles never really get all that complex or satisfying to solve.  Unlike similar puzzle platformers, you never get any new tools or abilities to use to freshen things up.  The one change the game does eventually introduce – the ability to go underwater – happens right before the end of the game so it doesn’t really get the opportunity to really improve anything. 

I’m not saying the game isn’t enjoyable to play or the puzzles are bad, but nothing about the experience really jumps out at you as being something special.  It is just easy and sort of boring and undeniably short as it only takes a couple of hours to finish.  It is wholly unremarkable.

The presentation definitely has an appeal, though.  The little robot you control is cute and the environments you explore are surprisingly neat looking.  You fly through run down machinery and industrial areas and it makes you think the world you’re playing in probably has a more interesting story to tell than one about a simple lost robot but you never get to see it.  I rather like that, to be honest.

All in all, though, Unmechanical: Extended just doesn’t have enough depth in its gameplay to keep you interested for long.  The puzzles are generally straightforward and easy and not especially satisfying.  That isn’t to say Unmechanical: Extended is bad.  Not at all, in fact.  But compared to The Swapper or LIMBO or INSIDE or other 2D puzzle platformers, it is mostly unremarkable.  It isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon, but not the best way to spend $10 on an Xbox One indie game, either.