Machinarium is a point-and-click adventure game with an opening sequence I found irresistible. It begins when a battered flying vehicle from a dense metropolis dumps its cargo of metallic refuse onto a junk pile. Your first task? Re-assembling Machinarium’s protagonist, a dilapidated little robot, from parts scattered in the refuse.
The game doesn’t reveal until much later how the robot ended up in such a sad state, but just on the basis of that opening, I became invested in its story. And though the outline of that story is familiar, both the setting and characterization are so distinctive that it doesn’t matter. The metropolis and its robotic inhabitants are simultaneously industrial and organic, and despite Machinarium’s complete lack of written or spoken dialogue, the protagonist has more personality than the human characters in many games. Everything is conveyed through hand-sketched thought bubbles, animated gestures, and the occasional unexpected hoot or yelp. There’s even a moment when the robot gets its groove on.
Just another reminder of how important characterization can be for getting the player invested in your game.