Full Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the game by the developers for review purposes. All views and opinions expressed are my own. You can learn more about my disclosure policy here.
One of the most interesting side effects of the proliferation of mobile devices and the rise of mobile gaming is the reemergence of educational games as a desirable genre. New theories in game design and the simplicity of touch based controls mean that educational games and apps have become both lucrative and appealing to players. Machineers is a perfect example of this.
Originally conceived of as a master’s thesis project, Machineers is a mechanical puzzle game that teaches players how to think modularly. You play as a little robot girl (at least, she looks like a girl) that becomes an apprentice “machineer,” helping to repair machines around her robot town.
The game has a fun, post industrial aesthetic that is playful, but not childish, and a relaxing ambient soundtrack. Unlike other educational games that flaunt their kid friendliness with relentlessly upbeat music and a primary colour scheme, Machineers instead focuses on creating a world that the player can engage with, making learning and solving puzzles just one part of the whole experience.
One of the puzzles even involves fixing a stereo so you can mix your own cheerful song about robots cooperating!
Machineers also differentiates itself from other puzzle solving educational games by including a lose narrative and dialogue choices. While the game itself is relatively linear in structure, including at least the illusion of choice reinforces the player immersion and engagement.
Each puzzle takes the form of a machine that needs repairing. New concepts are introduced gradually as projects grow in scope. There are also hints and blue prints available if you get stuck, since the game is really about teaching you how to solve a puzzle, not trying to stump you or prevent you from progressing. And even with a little bit of hand holding, all of the puzzles feel very satisfying to solve. There are animations or music and the robots you help repeatedly praise your character for her burgeoning skills.
Machineers is being released episodically, with episode one currently available. There are 13 puzzles in this episode, including a final free hand puzzle to create a vehicle to take you to the next episode. I only got stumped once, but was able to move on to other puzzles and finish the episode. Rick enjoyed the game so much he blitzed through the first 8 levels in one sitting before I even got to take a look at it. All in all, Machineers is a wonderfully made and incredibly engaging puzzle game with great production values and challenging, but fair, puzzles.
Machineers is available on Steam for $4.99.