Developer: Michael Shmitt and Jon Miller
Released: 7th August, 2020
Price: $1.99 – $2.99
The Machine’s Garden is a puzzle game by Michael Shmitt and Jon Miller, in which you attempt to bring a long-dormant military supercomputer back into life on the mysterious planet Terra and learn more about the surrounding environment.
The game consists of 35 levels, each of which takes place on a hexagonal grid. Assuming control of a “hex,” you must move across adjacent cells and occupy them all. You cannot move to previously taken spaces, though you can rewind your actions by just tapping the field you want to go back to. If all adjacent cells are occupied, you’re stuck!
The Machine’s Garden also throws some mechanics and obstacles down your way to keep levels from being too easy, such as walls, teleporters, hex duplicators, and movement inhibitors. I found teleporters to be particularly tricky, especially when there are an abundance of them, and puzzles were duplicators can get downright fiendish at times.
The game starts easy and smoothly gets harder as you go further, not becoming too easy to too hard, though you might have to leave an overwhelming level or two for later. Unlike other puzzle games, there are no secondary objectives (such as clearing each level with the least moves), which allows you to simply appreciate each stage without running them into the ground by optimizing movements or clearing them in the shortest time possible.
Artstyle and Audio
The Machine’s Garden uses sophisticated yet clean pixel art, though it isn’t exactly impressive in the artstyle department, mainly due to lack of imagery anywhere aside from the aesthetically pleasing control room, however it does makes up for it with visual effects. For instance, when undoing, your hex rewinds each step you moved. Other than that, most of the game takes place on a dark, oppressing black background.
The same goes for the audio, which involves a little bit of ambiance (such as the occasional singing birds) as well as the sound effects during gameplay, but no music whatsoever. Though lamentable, I think the lack of impressive visuals or music adds to the simplicity and honesty of the puzzle game – emphasizing the “it’s just you and the game” factor.
The Machine’s Garden is a simple and honest experience that can and will puzzle your mind. With 35 stages free of distractions, and a curious environment told and explored through system logs, the game is a must-have for fans of the genre, especially at its low price.