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itch.io Recommends: four machine games

This week’s recommendations are all about machines. Building them, using them, and.. what it means for them to be alive? There’s a lot of diversity inside of this general theming, and I’m happy to wholeheartedly recommend each of these games. Read on for more robotic details.


Opus Magnum

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the team at Zachtronics make some of the best puzzle games around. Each one takes a new design challenge for a spin and are wholly unique challenges that share nothing in common but their pedigree. This makes picking a single game from the Zachtronics catalog to recommend tricky. The entire Zachtronics catalog is available on itch.io now so you can peruse each at your leisure, but my favorite has to be Opus Magnum. 

Building things is a common theme in Zachtronics games, but Opus Magnum might be the purest distillation of the idea. In true Zachtronics style, Opus Magnum is simply a game about programming robotic parts to do move things around the screen until they arrive in target zones. Simple, right? It is for about an hour and then the game starts throwing layers upon layers of mechanical interactions at you. It’s a brilliant progression curve that really highlights just how talented Zachtronics are. 

If you have any interest in puzzles, this is one of the best games around.


Quadrilateral Cowboy

Ok, so those puzzle games from masters of the craft weren’t enough for you. What about another puzzle game from a master of game design? Great. Quadrilateral Cowboy is Blendo Games’ hacking puzzler about running dos-style commands to stealth around the 90s. It’s one of those beautiful examples of games working wholly in sync from mechanics, to aesthetics, to setting, everything is tonally consistent. 

It also helps that the puzzle design here is top notch. The game feels challenging in a way that forced me to learn, but it wasn’t too difficult to the point where I was frustrated or gave up. I think it’s an important balance that really shows off just how smart this game is.


Can Androids Pray Red/ Blue

Ok, ok, maybe puzzles aren’t your jam. Well here’s a duology of narrative games about machines that comes as a collaboration between Xalavier Nelson Jr, Natalie Clayton, and Priscilla Snow. The game itself is a really interesting meditation on what it means to be alive with pitch perfect writing, but what makes this feel really unique is the fact that it comes in a Pokemon-style duo. That’s right, Can Androids Pray has a literal Red/Blue version dichotomy. Both games are largely similar, but luckily for the indecisive, the developers have put together a combo pack with both games for the price of one.

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Master the intricate, physical machinery of the transmutation engine— the alchemical engineer’s most advanced tool!
Puzzle
Twentieth-century Cyberpunk
Adventure