When you’re looking for a video game to really challenge the mind then the puzzle genre is usually the obvious place to start. Stepping up to the plate are Grip Games with their inaugural next-gen title Unmechanical: Extended which is an extended edition of the original Unmechanical PC game. Can it prove to be a real mind boggler and bring some innovative puzzles to the table?
Perhaps I should give you an idea of what Unmechanical: Extended is all about, starting with the standard story. Basically a robot and, I presume its family, are minding their own business when out of nowhere the robot gets sucked down a pipe into an underground world. Unsure about this mysterious environment and why it has been bot-napped, there’s only really one logical thing to do next… get out!
What becomes apparent from the moment you take control of this poor robot is that there’ll be no hand holding in this game. You are expected to figure it all out on your own, not just how to solve the various puzzles but also where on earth you’re meant to go. It is quite fortunate that there are only two abilities you’ll need to figure out; one, performed by the analog stick, to move the robot using its rotor blades and the other (one of many buttons doing the same job) to lift things using a powerful beam.
Given such basic controls you’d possibly think there isn’t much scope for the type of quandaries it could place on your path to freedom, and well, to be quite frank the developers don’t seem to have allowed it to limit them at all. Instead they have a variety of conundrums in place which, to name just a few, aim to test your memory and bamboozle you with the power of reflection. And that’s why the major positive note I have for Unmechanical: Extended is towards the complexity of puzzles they offer, using very little tools to solve them, whilst still being enjoyable to solve.
I don’t wish to spoil the many puzzles involved here as one of the joys is actually figuring out the nature of the puzzle before even attempting to solve it. However, as an example to get across to you what to expect, I’ll recount one of the simpler tasks I faced. After entering an area, all I see is a few weighing scales each with differing sized stone blocks on and a couple of surplus stones by the side. Only by messing with these scales do you realise that something moves depending on the weight placed upon each set. This was one of the more trial and error based puzzles that feel like a real achievement once completed.
As for the story, it’s a little bare and with no explanations as to what is going on within this strange underground world of weird spider looking robots, darkness and even a beating heart. I guess your imagination will be the main source of taking anything from all this. That being said, a story isn’t a must here but it’d certainly compliment the well thought out gameplay.
So, it’s fair to point out the standard Unmechanical game keeps you occupied for a good few hours and at times takes you as close as it can to frustration without ever really getting there, ending up as a real mental workout that’s for sure. Now onto the reason this is the Extended edition; an extra new level, story and puzzles to enhance the experience. Although you’ll find it’s less of an enhancement in reality.
This time, two robots have been taken and although in separate parts of the facility they will have to work together at points to escape. There is no control over the second robot, if it appears and is meant to do something to help progress it will, so no need to worry about controlling two at once. The puzzles are also just as mind bogglingly great as before to discover, hence you must be thinking, what’s my issue with the story extension then? Quite simply, bugs.
Due to the fact that the player will never fully understand a puzzle until you’ve worked it out and moved on, I didn’t even realise the first bug until I was exploring back and forth looking for something I’d not done correctly. When you spend a vast amount of time on a problem, only to find you will go no further because the game has bugged out it becomes bloody frustrating. After a few reloads and repeating the solution just as many times, it eventually opened up the next area. It wasn’t just the one area that did this, so my opinion here was soured by the end of the short story.
Does this outweigh the enjoyment I garnered from the main story? Of course not, because the puzzles in this part were challenging, unique and most importantly worked. I wouldn’t invest in Unmechanical: Extended for the additional part just yet, maybe they’ll iron out the bugs, but there’s enough of the original game to make it worthwhile to have on your Xbox One for £7.99. In a gaming world where most games spoon feed us solutions to difficulties you may face, it’s a nice change from the norm.
Come for the mental challenge and you won’t be disappointed.