By Marisa Alexander / May 20th, 2019
|Developer||Seaven Studio, Darjeeling|
|Publisher||ARTE France, ARTE Experience|
|Release Date||April 25th, 2019|
|Platform||iOS, Android, Switch|
|Age Rating||Rated E|
We normally don’t review artistic titles mixed with edutainment. After all, they are typically not in our wheelhouse. However, here we are with Homo Machina by Darjeeling, a completely touch-based puzzle game focused on the human body. Inspired by the illustrations of Fritz Kahn, the human body is represented as a factory, with workers enabling basic functions like opening and closing eyes. The idea here is for the game to be intuitive while learning the inner workings of the human body. Without further ado, let’s see if the game can convey all of this in one package.
As a basic plot, the manager of the factory, effectively the brain, wakes up whereupon he orders everyone to kickstart everything to start the day off. After breakfast, the manager then prepares to get ready for an important meeting. Running late, everyone swiftly gets into gear. Once the meeting starts, basically a man and woman meeting up, the manager falls in love and tries to confess his feelings, whereupon the game ends with a small dance, fitting for the 1920s.
The plot is basic but cute. It is completely harmless, as it gives the players a sense of progression and a goal to strive for. If it didn’t exist, I am confident that I would be not as engaged, which is the one of the most important aspects when it goes to these titles. That said, the one issue is how the game more or less ends rather suddenly. I was expecting more before the credits, so once it ended, it caught me off guard.
In terms of artistry, the game goes for a very simple and charming aesthetic. There is nothing that is obscured and there are a bunch of small details that really give that factory atmosphere. The sound design is also on point, lending to a surprisingly immersive experience. Overall, Homo Machina has a very identifiable art style: simple on the eyes, with lovely inspiration from Fritz Kahn.
Gameplay-wise, this game is extremely basic. Even on the Switch, the game is played completely on the touch screen. Thankfully, it is not as simple as merely tapping everything. Sometimes you must hold, spin or flip certain objects of the factory to solve puzzles. All of them are very simple, to the point there is no fail state. Getting anything wrong merely causes a minor setback. As such, this is an exceptionally casual game, with almost no difficulty.
That said, every now and then the game does not convey well enough the exact specifics on what to do. For example, one of the puzzles revolves around touching certain squares with arrows pointing to specific coordinates. That is simple enough. The issue was learning that was the puzzle to begin with. Until it properly began, despite tapping on effectively everything, nothing seemed to be happening. The lack of conveyance can also extend to how the body actually functions, such as the part with the vocal cords. They were represented by an organ. I obviously got the air-to-sound part but I had no clue what they were going for otherwise.
As a whole, was the game engaging? At times yes, otherwise no. Since many of the puzzles are not brain-dead easy, I am at least paying attention. However, there were many points that I was merely going through the motions. Since this is meant to be a learning experience as well, engagement is one of the most important things to do. Otherwise, it is hard to have people truly retain anything garnered from the experience.
Which comes to the last question: is the average person able to present a similar topic and make it more interesting and informative? In my view, the answer is yes. While this title isn’t just for children, I’d much rather be the one to teach people about the human body. Due to the lack of conveyance and engagement at points, it can be troublesome for anyone to truly gather much of anything from this title.
Overall, Homo Machina is merely an average puzzle game with educative elements. Outside of engagement and conveyance issues, it is completely harmless without any other problems to be had. For an experience of about an hour with a price of $2.99, you could do far worse. The art style is by far the game’s biggest selling point, with everything else effectively an extra part of the package. If you are interested seeing the art in motion, it doesn’t hurt to give the game a whirl.
Review copy provided by the publisher
DarjeelingHomo MachinamobilepuzzleSeaven StudioSwitch