App Reviewed on: iPhone 4
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On the PC, Machinarium shone as a point-and-click adventure game that didn't need dialogue to catch the eye, instead relying on its unusual, lateral-thinking puzzles and lovingly detailed visual style. After playing it for a few minutes, I thought The Passenger from Loading Home might prove to be its spiritual sibling on iOS.
While not as animated as Machinarium, The Passenger presents a 2D urban wilderness with a noir-like overlay and some curious psychological twists to be discovered. The game seems to take place in the mind of the protagonist, a father who leaves his family in the first cut scene. He slowly trudges through the weird world in his trenchcoat and trilby, all to the backdrop of understated, melancholy music. At any given moment the game is gorgeous to look at.
The puzzles are another plus point. They require a bit more thought than your typical adventure game, or at least a little more endeavor in terms of searching through the environment. Sometimes they're a little under-explained, but more often than not they are satisfying to complete. An early highlight includes attaching a magnet to a wire, then lining the contraption through a drain cover to try and pick up a key at the bottom, all using the tilt functions of the device.
I say "early," but the major problem with The Passenger is that it's all over way too early - frankly it's criminally short. The game barely takes an hour to play through, and even then that's only because the protagonist walks so slowly. This is also frustrating because the story is left so vague in that time that it barely gets any time to breathe. The game ends with a 'to be continued' note, but it's unclear if that's going to surface through updates to the game or through a second, separate release.
At its current price, compared to other apps, it's difficult to recommend The Passenger at the time of writing except to those who really enjoy their adventure games and have money to burn. If that price drops or, more importantly, if the app receives updates that add further puzzles and exposition then there's the potential for The Passenger to be one of the quiet, understated gems on iOS. To be continued...