This game was played on Steam with 4 hours of gameplay tracked
A very odd thing happened on November 15, 2011. I sat down in front of this very laptop and typed up a very jumbled review of Amnesia the Dark Descent. After struggling to reread the nineteenth game review I put up on the Internet I realized a couple things. Firstly, I feel that I’ve become a much better writer in terms of grammar, and overall use of the English language. Secondly, I feel that I’ve become more articulate and have been able to get my point across while also interjecting some humor into the article. The important thing is that 19 year old me had a tough time stomaching The Dark Descent. I praised the game’s atmosphere but bashed its story and gameplay mechanics, giving it completely arbitrary number ratings in the process.
Perhaps someday I shall go through and redo some of my older reviews so that they are easier reads, or at the very least I’ll do a retroactive TL;DR on them. The reason I bring all of this up is because Machine for Pigs is a very different game from Dark Descent but some of my points may not come across as well since I didn’t articulate well enough in my original review. I just want everyone to keep that in mind.
The reason I was initially excited for Machine for Pigs was because of the development team behind it. The Chinese Room was the group responsible for the game Dear Esther, a game that I enjoy defending as awesome to this day. People can call me a pretentious hipster all they want, I enjoyed it. Naturally when I heard they were going to be doing a horror game, in the Amnesia franchise no less, I got pretty excited. I figured that the Dear Esther style would actually work quite well for a horror story.
I can confirm to those who may worry, Machine for Pigs can’t be classified as a walking simulator like Dear Esther. There is a fair bit of walking around, especially at the beginning, but there are also puzzles to solve and enemies to stealth your way past. Unfortunately therein lies my biggest problem with Machine for Pigs. There is a lot of walking around in the early goings of the game, and there is too much that took me out of it early on.
For context, the game starts out with your character Oswald Mandus in the bedroom of his children. He cant remember anything because if he remembered stuff this wouldn’t be called Amnesia it would be called Ozzy Mandus’ Fun Time Exploration Through His Big Mansion. Of course I never referred to him as Oswald Mandus. The game allowed me to name the profile so of course I always called him Piggly Wiggly. I’m just keeping with the theme of the game.
Naturally his children are missing and it is revealed to Mandus that his children have gone underground into the giant machine that is there, and the only way to get them back is to turn it back on. So Mandus must explore his giant house, giant on site church, and meat processing facility because it makes sense that those three things would be in close proximity.
I must say that Machine for Pigs’ story is its weakest part. If you’ve ever played a video game or seen a movie in your life you’ll know that Ozzy’s kids have long since kicked the proverbial trough. Exploring all this is merely a formality. The diary entries and audio logs don’t do much to help the situation either. Most of them are just loaded with pig puns. I’d be able to let that go if it weren’t for the fact that even the final twists aren’t that interesting. It turns out that in the end that Mandus was responsible for his children’s deaths because he was sick after a trip to Mexico.
Fun aside: My class went on a field trip to New York and everyone came down with sickness after eating at an Applebees. Number of students who then went on to create giant machines with porcine humanoid guards – 0. Imagine that. You may be wondering what kind of sickness did Mr. Mandus have? Well it was the sickness known as foresight. He was able to see into the future and see both of his sons dying in World War One. So he killed them first. Okay.
The other major reveal is that the reason that many of the machines parts are broken and are the source of the puzzles of the game is because Mandus had previously gone down to the machine to sabotage it. He just forgot about that part until the end of the game. His reasoning is because the other half of his soul was controlling the machine causing it to become sentient. It intends to use the machine to change the future and stop the horrors of World War 1. It unleashes an army of Manpigs to kill everyone. It’s the old adage; “You can’t have a war if there are no people to have a war.”
For those of you who skipped that spoiler section, suffice it to say that I established the ridiculousness of the game’s story. The game redeems itself somewhat in the look of the game. The game is dripping with atmosphere and the game does a good job of making a seemingly innocuous stairway seem frightening. In the first hour of the game while exploring the mansion each new area that you open has a sense of dread even though it takes about an hour or two before you even see an enemy that can do any damage to you.
That’s when the gameplay starts running into some serious problems. At the early goings it felt more like exploring a haunted house. Which I didn’t have a problem with. Once it started introducing its puzzle elements and enemies that could harm Mandus, it started to trudge. What had up till that point had decent pacing started to feel like a chore. You cant fight the Manpigs which is in line with the franchise so you’ll spend a lot of time waiting for them to walk buy and then running past them. The Dark Descent had an anti camp feature by having you go crazy the longer you waited in the shadows. In Machine for Pigs you can hide for as long as you want, and you can take quite a few hits before you’re incapacitated. The puzzles are also crazy simple. This was true of the first game but it felt more annoying here. The puzzles mostly consist of finding an item and placing it in a hole that is shaped like the item you found.
I kind of lied earlier when I said you cant fight the Manpigs. There is one sub boss Manpig variant that you can fight. They are called the Tesla pigs and they are basically regular Manpigs that happen to be covered with jars of electricity. They look stupid but there is a boss fight with a couple of them in the game.
There isn’t much more to say about the game. It can be defeated in around three hours. My extra hours came from numerous times getting lost, or not figuring out what a specific item was that I needed to progress. For those who will give the game a try here’s a helpful hint. Right before you go to the church there is an Antique Car in the way of the gate. Well if you go inside the meat packing plant and grab the box in the dumbwaiter, you can take it to a fuelling station and fill it with gas and then put the box inside the car. This will allow you to turn a crank on the front bumper that moves the car out of the way of the gate. You’re welcome.
At the end of the day I wouldn’t recommend buying this game for full price. I doubt that’s much of a problem anymore given that the game has been out for a while, but I would say that it’s worth a try if you can get it on a good steam sale. With which the summer coming doesn’t seem like that inconceivable of a thing.