When I wake up in the morning I imagine the neurons in my brain firing up like a computer: each component coming alive with a soft hum and glowing LED lights dimly flickering to life as I come online and fully functional for the day’s events. When engaged, my CPU begins the very critical tasks of processing how much sugar is going into my coffee and whether I’m going to risk adding milk or going with a non-dairy creamer option.
Based off the pioneering work of physician/artist Fritz Kahn, Homo Machina imagines the human anatomy as a working factory, complete with little humanoids who ensure everything is functioning properly. Where the actual game comes into ‘play’ is via a dazzling interactive point-and-click exploration that merges artistic expression with puzzles. There isn’t a whole lot of “story” so to speak, though the head director in charge
The head director is the one in charge of the whole operation and is caught sleeping before he’s abruptly woken up and he finally gets around to getting the factory up and running away. After all, there’s a romantic evening coming up soon so you’re going to have to get through the day first, right?
Who knew waking up could be such an experience? The first scene you have to tap around to light the rooms of the factory up and watch as lamps shake and shiver before flickering to life. Once everyone is up and working again is when the real fun of Homo Machina begins.
One of the first jobs of the day is to analyze the smells that come in and identifying what they are by collecting samples. Before collecting the samples, however, you have to use a hose to clear the blockages in the nasal passages so airflow is optimal and can be sent to the lab for analysis. You use a powerful hose to get out the snot and have to go up and down the nasal passages to ensure optimal airflow has been achieved.
Identifying the different smells can be difficult since you have to find the right combination of items to make a full analyses of the information. Doing this involves combining singular smells like “bread” with “jam”, which translates to – naturally – “toast”. And this is only an example of the type of data crunching you’ll be doing, and this is all before you’ve even had a chance to eat breakfast!
Naturally, eating has its place here in the overall system where a conveyor belt with instruments for chopping and grinding are at the ready to break down components arriving at the factory. Scissors expertly chop up the bread to break it down into chunks and as it moves along is broken down further by being ground up for fuel. The entire process is a creative representation of how people consume food, it’s hard not to be fascinated by how such basic everyday activities have suddenly become interesting.
Homo Machina isn’t perfect, even though its presentation is charming with brilliant artwork throughout. One section I got stuck on is where you have to press a series of buttons to activate various parts of the body like the brain, muscles, and various organs. There’s a time limit to pressing these buttons and if missed the factory shorts out and you have to continually tap on a broken panel to fix it and start over again. The panels make a loud beeping sound to indicate they need to be fixed, but in several instances the panels remained broken while the beeping continued. I had to restart this section of the game over three times after it would freeze up, but upon reaching the final timed challenge it would freeze again. Hopefully this issue is fixed with an update, but otherwise didn’t impair my enjoyment of exploring a human anatomy factory.
Despite its flaws (which I’m sure can be ironed out with updates) Homo Machina is a unique artistic experience into the mind of a person who examined the human body is a completely new light. The light storytelling gives context to the human “factory” and all its working components, while the expressive visual style adds a sense of childlike wonder about how the body might actually function if only our wild imagination had its way. It’s not a perfect experience, but there’s no denying this is one of the most original games I’ve played this year.