Amanita Design is an independent game development studio founded in 2003 by Jakub Dvorsky. The Czech studio has created games for the BBC (Questionaut) and The Polyphonic Spree. They’ve won several Webby’s and have been nominated for a BAFTA. They’ve collaborated with Bjork for a point and click “toy” called The Pantry, and recently released their first full-length masterpiece, Machinarium – three years in the making – in which a self-made robot journeys through a bizarre and beautiful landscape.
Amanita’s work is magical and visually complex. They create unique worlds which require focus and concentration, which are non-violent and bereft of smash cuts, nor are they filled with thrashing music and the vibrating impact of bullets in bodies. They won’t tweak your blood-lust, nor will they train you for combat. The ten artists at Amanita seem more interested in making us think.
Machinarium presents breathtaking scenes navigated by unusual and unlikely heroes who poke and prod their surroundings – which vary from swampy garbage dumps to robot-filled cities in dank decline – for clues and tools to reach some far off destination. A character might find a bit of rope, the keys of a saxophone, or a houseplant, not knowing the purpose for any particular item until later in the game when they meet a musician, find a greenhouse, or approach a bridgeless ravine. The inventory of odd objects grows, and creative problem solving must be employed to fit the pieces together.
This circuitous game is, in fact, a puzzle in many shapes and sizes. At times the solution may materialize as something musical, mathematical, or purely visual, and without finding such solutions, progress through the game is impossible. Each pixel is perfect, the scenes rendered in ravishing detail down to every snaking stripe of rust on each bent pipe, hairline fractures in glass light globes, and the ornate tile work of floors and walls. Even the robots which inhabit the experience startle us with their personality; dented and occasionally demented, these characters seem to have lived actual lives, the difficulties of which are evident in their posture and dispositions, in the lack of sheen on their metal frames, which, in appearance, fall somewhere between Tim Burton, Caro and Jeunet, Fritz Lang, and Salvador Dali.
It is as if the artists behind Machinarium knew just how long we might have to stare at some little nook or half-obscured-by-shadow cranny to figure things out, and decided to reward us for our time by offering something we would never tire of staring at.
Support them, won’t you? Their work is independently funded, and it only takes a glimpse to see how gorgeously they blend art and science with each new project, all of which are far more deserving of your dollars than any Grand Theft Wild West Zombie Space Adventure From Hell that people are sleeping in tents outside of stores to get their hands on.
Amanita’s games are like nothing we’ve ever seen or heard before, and we eagerly await their next piece of digital conceptual wonder. Below are more images from Machinarium, courtesy of Amanita Design.