Review: The Enigma Machine (Nintendo Switch)

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True to its name, The Enigma Machine (no relation to the cipher) is a mysterious title. Part puzzle game, part action title, it takes an intriguing story and wraps it in early 32-bit visuals. It’s the sort of release that I like better on paper than in execution, but it accomplishes its goals for the most part, albeit in an often clunky fashion.

This short adventure takes place in the DREAMSCAPE (all caps), a 3D interactive environment representing the AI of an android. Your guide through this exercise will be communicating with you, and herein lies one of the elements executed in a clunky manner. The text is small and often tiresome to read due to the graphical effects like lighting, low resolution, shaking screen, etc. Further, the keyboard for your replies is tiny. Not the most user-friendly, these combined to discourage me from getting to know the AI.

Once you get into a level, you’re in for some first-person exploring. Puzzles (code finding) later give way to action, too. The rough early-‘90s presentation is an acquired taste that could be headache-inducing. But I have a sentiment for this style and have been saying for years that indies should embrace the 32-bit generation more. The graphics effectively convey a feeling of anxiety, with a weird, almost horrific at times, visual style. If you’re into a fledgling 32-bit presentation, you’ll get a retro kick out of The Enigma Machine, even if it’s too dark for its own good at times.

The audio compliments. Environmental sound effects like insects, rain, and wind augment music that really ramps up as you progress. It adds to The Enigma Machine’s puzzling, often creepy vibe.

The Enigma Machine has a solid, page-turning plot. The way it embraces unfolding technology (and in a unique visual style) is something I’d like to see more of. But the marriage of story and visuals with the gameplay is mixed. Some successful puzzles are let down by in-between, squinting-at-the-screen, bits; this is probably one to skip if you’re playing on a Switch Lite. But if you have affection for the early 32-bit era, give The Enigma Machine a shot. It’s not much of a commitment in terms of funds or time.

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