A giant unstoppable killer robot threatens the very fate of the world. Humanity’s last hope rests on the shoulders of a handful of engineers and a trusty android companion who must navigate the labyrinthian intestines of the beast to find the off button.
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To make matters worse, if you finally manage to blue-screen the beast, it begins to fall apart. Stubborn humans live within the monsters’ modules and refuse to listen to reason until their very world begins to crumble around them while you drag them to safety.
Mechanical Beast is an ever-changing puzzle that can be played cooperatively, semi-cooperatively, solo, or against each other in a competitive fashion.
You have to explore the innards of a giant robot while using the various mechanical devices to manipulate and shift around the rooms in a way that will allow you to shut it down, and safely escape the beast while ensuring to rescue every imbecile you find along the way.
Mechanical Beast is a very cerebral game. It’s very simple to play with just a handful of actions. However, using the gears to manipulate the rooms and plan ahead takes some intensive thought, especially when the whole thing begins to collapse.
|Gideon’s Bias||Mechanical Beast Information|
|Review Copy Used: Yes||Publisher: Giga Mech Games|
|Number of Plays: 5+||Designers: Ben Morayta|
|Player Counts Played: 1 & 2||Player Count: 1-4|
|Fan of Genre: No||Genre: Tile-placement, Puzzle, Co-op|
|Fan of Weight: No||Weight: Light/Gateway|
|Gaming Groups Thoughts: No Interest||Price: $25|
Mechanical Beast is largely a tile-laying game and thus comes with a huge stack of them. The tiles themselves are thick and clearly depict the features of each room, from the locked doors to the gears, it all makes sense at a glance.
I will say, that the square tiles conflict with the gameplay to a degree. A huge part of Mechanical Beast involves using various gears to rotate and shift tiles. It can be really cumbersome to rotate the tiles, especially when they are in the middle of the board. It’s very easy to bump, nudge or otherwise mess up the placement of other tiles when doing so.
The game comes with a neat tile holder that assembles quickly and easily. I usually cringe at these types of additions because I hate having to disassemble and reassemble them every game. However, this tile holder fits neatly back into the box fully assembled, and that’s awesome.
You have a handful of meeples for the players plus the android, and a bunch of smaller meeples to represent the fools living within the bowels of the beast that need to be rescued.
There’s also a pack of really handy reference guides for how the various mechanical gear systems work, and it makes learning and playing the game a snap. The rule book itself is well written too, which is nice.
Mechanical Beast is priced reasonably for the components it contains. It packs a good amount of stuff into its small box frame, and the fact that the tile holder fits inside the box fully assembled is a real winning move for me.
Solo & Co-op
The goal is to find the control room to shut the beast down and escape the collapsing monster without getting trapped. No human may be left behind, player or meeple. The Android does not need to survive, but it’s somewhat of a pyrrhic victory if it’s left behind since it’s meant to be an intelligent companion to the players.
The various people you find within the beast won’t budge until you shut it down. You have to find ways to get to them as you backtrack to escape.
The innards of the beast are a maze. Each turn is pretty simple, you can move your engineer, and explore a new room or activate a mechanism. Players control their own engineer, and anyone may use the Android.
The trick is many rooms lock behind you, complicating the maze. After you shut down the beast, anytime a meeple moves from a room and leaves it empty, it collapses, shifting the entire row behind it. You lose if any meeple is left behind, player or otherwise. You have to plan out your movements in an ever-shifting collapsing labyrinth carefully.
The fun part comes in the form of gears. Some rooms have various mechanisms you can activate that manipulate rooms in specific ways. A large center gear rotates the room one way, while rotating orthogonally adjacent rooms the opposite way, for example.
I like that each of the gears functions logically. A zipper-like gear on one side of the room moves the row beside it as if that room is traveling along them. While a corner gear rotates a whole chunk of rooms at once. It makes sense and makes each function easy to remember, even without the use of the handy guide sheets.
The gear mechanism makes Mechanical Beast into a very intricate puzzle, especially when you have to factor in the collapsing rooms shifting entire rows. Getting to safety while also rescuing all the meeples is a challenge and one that feels great when you accomplish it. It’s a real brain burner that will put your spatial movement skills to the test.
It definitely works best as a solo experience. Mechanical Beast plays the exact same way solo, and you have full control of the action as you tamper with the puzzle. It’s a thoughtful puzzle game that’s quick to play and presents you with a challenge that always varies, especially when you factor in the different ways you can adjust the game’s difficulty.
Co-op in Mechanical Beast is very vulnerable to quarterbacking as the action set is quite simple, and there’s often a move a player has to make in order not to screw over the entire team. This is especially true when the beast starts collapsing. A single failure means the whole team loses, so there’s little to no margin of error.
Furthermore, the game is simply built like a solo game that splits a single player’s decision space to multiple players for no other reason than to have them there. While Mechanical Beast works great as a solo experience, I find little reason to engage with its co-op mode over other games.
Semi Co-op & Competitive
In semi-co-op, Mechanical Beast largely functions the same as before, except the player who rescues the most meeples wins. It’s a neat idea in concept but largely falls flat due to the fact that everyone still loses if another engineer can’t escape. That limits your ability to interact with another player negatively because you lose if they fail.
A player can also reach the exit and then choose to go back in to rescue more meeple. This can result in an “if I don’t win, no one does” type of mentality. If another player is in the lead, you can risk yourself to go back in and risk a loss for everyone, because you were going to lose anyway.
On the other hand, the concept of semi-co-op slices the quarterbacking issue at the knees. You can’t tell another player what to do when they are also trying to beat you, even though you have to work together to ensure everyone survives.
The game’s competitive mode, on the other hand, works quite well. In this mode, the Android is removed, and each player has two engineers. The fate of other players no longer impacts your ability to win, and the game becomes a race. The first one to escape with both Engineers wins, but if some engineers become trapped, a tiebreaker is decided by those who reached the exit with at least one engineer first.
The competitive mode works great within the confines of the game’s concept. Altering rooms becomes a way to impede the other players in addition to plotting your own escape. The shifting of tiles during the collapse can be used to your advantage or against you, and it makes for a tight-knit game of tripping each other up as you each inch closer to the finish line.
Mechanical Beast retains its intricate puzzle-like nature but links it with the additional strategy of wielding that puzzle against the other players. It works really well and feels unique.
I enjoy the competitive mode but for me, Mechanical Beast really shines as a solo game. The shifting of tiles and manipulating of gears elevate the experience of navigating a maze beyond simply navigating a maze.
It’s the type of game that makes you feel really smart for playing well and makes you want to kick yourself for making a boneheaded move that shifted an entire row of rooms and cut off your escape. You truly want to commit to your mistakes in Mechanical Beast rather than backtracking, as each mistake just adds further variation to the puzzle.
It’s a thinkers game, but one that is incredibly simple to actually play. The depth is in the intricate layout of the maze and how to manipulate it rather than the rules and how to execute them.
I’m really not a fan of puzzles in the strictest sense. You would never see me putting together a jigsaw puzzle or solving a Rubix cube. But I really do enjoy navigating the mess of mechanical modules within the beast. It’s easy to set up nature, and its small profile makes it an excellent choice for when I’m too lazy to set up something bigger for myself.
Mechanical Beast offers a lot of choices with its four modes of play and varying levels of difficulty. It’s an inexpensive game with a thoughtful ever-changing puzzle packed into its small box. Not every mode works for me personally, but that’s okay. For me, it’s a satisfying solo game I can also play competitively with others for some amusing room-shifting shenanigans.
More reviews of games that work great solo
- Four game modes and variable difficulty settings
- Easy to Learn
- Fast set up and tear down, plus the tile holder fits back into the box assembled.
- A very interesting puzzle game about manipulating rooms via gears
- A great solo experience
- The competitive mode is full of amusing “take that” moments as you impede the other players
- The co-op mode is vulnerable to quarterbacking and semi-coop feels undercooked
- Rotating tiles in the center of an elaborate maze can be cumbersome