We have forever been fascinated by machines, and how quickly they have evolved over the years. If it wasn’t for a piece of clever machine technology underneath your TV we wouldn’t be reviewing, thinking, or obsessing over games as we do. In stories though we have a conspiracy or fear about machines; the AI rising up against us. This is best illustrated with the Terminator films, but in games it’s also a hot topic with experiences like Portal or Halo Infinite focusing on the search for a rogue AI. The Enigma Machine is one of the many games which follow this pattern, but it weaves a clever mystery that has a lot more to say. Let’s log in.
The Enigma machine is a unique yet clever game that puts the gamer into a position where they will question everything around them.
You start the game in a Virtual Reality program called DREAMSCAPE. You see a computer screen and are getting talked to by the AI controlling the program. Here you have to press a few keys to accept options and type in responses, as well as your real name. As you carry on with this chat the AI at times seems confused and glitches. Something isn’t right.
You then enter levels of DREAMSCAPE which puts you into the first person, left with codes to find in order to decontaminate the program. The writing and story of the game had me hooked from the beginning, with echoes of Portal, but plows its own field entirely. The interesting themes and clever narrative structure had me intrigued all the way through the game. The big problem I had with the way the story was told was in regards the size of the text on the screen. You see, in the computer screen section you have to squint to see exactly what’s going on; it’s doable, but not pleasant. And when commands happen in the first-person exploration sections it’s near impossible to read, something which is a huge shame.
When you enter the levels in the first person you get to walk around locations that are both familiar and strange. Each level has a terminal that you start at; you need to find a code in the level, then go back to the terminal and enter it to finish the level.
The levels have – for example – an art gallery with paintings and sculptures that hold clues to the code you are looking for. Another sees you journey through a house, looking for clues connected with a statue in a garden.
The controls work well enough but some of the allocations of buttons feel strange at times; not as intuitive as I would have liked. Further, there have been times when I got stuck in environments, and others which felt far too dark. It does feel however that the gameplay mechanics aren’t the main focus of this game, and instead it’s all about the journey and the interesting story unfolding in front of you. These were the factors that kept me moving forward, wanting to see how it all plays out in front of me.
Visually, The Enigma Machine employs an old 32-bit style of interface and visual aesthetic. The computer interface is well designed with clever elements of deconstruction in how the AI starts to break down. I loved this screen and the way it’s constructed. But as I said before, the text size can get a bit too tiny for my TV screen on the other side of the living room. The level design is good though and has some nice lighting at times, along with decent design. It’s lo-fi which some will love or hate, but there are some very clever moments, like when you see the code come through the level design to give you a big clue of what you want to do next.
The audio is very good indeed. From the chirpy shopping mall, easy listening music of the DREAMSCAPE computer interface to the more scary somber synth soundtrack in the levels. It’s a great piece of work that dials in superbly with the world design.
The Enigma Machine delivers a great story to play through, at least for the two hours or so it takes to complete. It’s helped that the game comes to market at a very cheap price; I’d go as far to say that it is totally worthy in terms of value. There are problems with text size and some big glitches when playing in the first person, however the inventiveness and story win over these misgivings. In all, The Enigma Machine provides an experience that stays with you way after the game has finished.
The Enigma Machine is available over at the Xbox Store