This is Part 3 of a series of game reviews. In this series, we’ll be looking at games from Aussie studios as a way of celebrating all the great local talent the country has to offer.
The story of how I found this game
Before I even get into this review, you guys just need to hear this story because it’s hilarious. So, as you may know, I was at RTX a few weeks back 👇
I was happily doing some writing and coverage of the event for goto.game and it just so happens that I met a few characters that weekend. We were all in the same room for a while, I overheard banter, I replied back with amusing banter (as you do). Then, after finally introducing myself, I find out one of these gentlemen in the room is a game dev. This gentleman’s name is Jackson Frew. Whut whut? An Aussie dev? Hell yeah! So, of course, I told him that we want to support Aussie devs and that I personally wanted to see his game.
And now, here we are, I’ve finally taken a look at his game and man is it absolutely fascinating.
Firstly, this is one of those games where I’m in love with the storyline over everything else.
The gist of the plot is that you’ve just been contacted by a lady we found out is named Lisa. She tells you you’re stuck in something called The Machine. As far as I can tell, The Machine is some sort of Rapture-like place in the Pacific Ocean built in 1940 that people flocked to as a new utopia.
Of course, as soon as you utter the word utopia, you must next question whether we’re talking about some crazy dystopian world. The answer is, of course, yes. Lisa tells you that The Machine is powered by the mental energy of its inhabitants. In exchange, inhabitants can get their hands on virtual currency (Platinum Bars).
Storyline videos like the one below, despite being only a minute long, really help build the underlying lore too.
While playing the game, I was getting vibes from so many other stories and media that I love. I was getting feels of The Matrix, Black Mirror, Bioshock, DATA WING, 1984, Whiteout (mobile text-based game), H.P. Lovecraft and just a slight hint of Soylent Green.
My favourite part of the storyline? Changes in the plot are voted on regularly by players. Here’s an example tweet announcing the most recent decision to save Lisa:
THE MACHINE appreciates all of your donations.
The previous voting period has ended, with SAVE LISA dominating with 91.2% of the votes.
Part 4 is live now for iOS and Android
— THE MACHINE (@themachine_) February 10, 2018
I’ve only been playing for a very very short time but I can’t wait to join in on the next round of voting to have a real impact on what happens in the story.
FYI: The game is going to be updated every Saturday until the narrative is completed.
The gameplay style is reaction-based. The key skills you need to play are speed and quick-thinking. The screenshots above show the 3 main reaction games within Pacific Machine. The first two involve you tapping the screen once the blue bar is in the active red area. The third you tap to move the blue square left or right in order to avoid the red areas.
While this seems too simple for a game, I can tell you now that as you continue your streak, the game will occasionally ramp up the speed. The puzzles will also slightly change as you stay on the same play streak.
Here is another favourite feature of mine from the game.
This isn’t a flashy game and that makes it great. The game animation is on point and when you come to the cutscenes, you’ll find them simple in the eerie way that they add to the eerie story. The cutscenes really remind me of old school flash animation movies. I loved those a lot. In particular, the dark sombre tone reminds me of Childrin R Skary (Google it later if you haven’t heard of it).
The fun part about the visuals is that you can customise the game animation. As you continue to play, you can collect more styles for the red bars and trails. One style I was even able to unlock by watching a 30 second ad (it’s a free to play game so I love being able to get vanity stuff through watching some ads).
While there’s really only one track, I have to say that this techno track is very earworm-worthy. It’s very catchy for what it is and for a continuous game that doesn’t follow the standard level-by-level structure, it’s good to listen to over a period of time.
Where I think Pacific Machine shines is its sound design. As you may know from my previous reviews, I have so much appreciation for sound design and sound effects in games. The sound design is woven into the storyline cutscenes and the sound is beautifully interwoven with the visuals of the game too. Even though you’re staring at a 2D animated cog or moving metal machinery, the sound helps boost the overall impact of each animation.
This game is brilliant given it was just launched on the 25th of January. It’s even more brilliant considering it’s come from a small local studio. It’s got a lot of style for what is an indie game and the community storyline voting feature is refreshing. Great job Amelus Digital and Jackson Frew!
If you want to get involved in influencing the storyline, follow the game on Twitter @TheMachine_.