I found Homo Machina while browsing for new games on my Switch. It’s a cute little puzzle game that features the work of scientist and artist Fritz Kahn. I had previously come across this name while doing research on scientific illustrations in avant-garde art of the early twentieth century, so it was pretty cool to see his work attached to a game.
Kahn’s medical illustrations were groundbreaking for their simplicity and efficacy in explaining difficult subjects. He was born in Germany, but as Europe became increasingly hostile to anyone of Jewish descent, he moved frequently- first to Palestine and then the United States where he came into contact with other displaced academics. His work on sexuality was demonized by the Nazis, but many of his more generalized illustrations were co-opted for educational books in the regime, naturally without credit to the original artist.
Gameplay centers around treating the body as a factory, run by a small army of workers who instruct you to manage the functions taking place. Almost every bodily function is covered from the time you wake to drifting off to sleep at the end of the day. It’s a quirky little interrogation of how we live our lives and reminds us how much we rely on our bodies to function properly. Each puzzle is well thought out and animated to perfection. My only complaint is that I wish there was slightly more.
Homo Machina was conceived and developed by Darjeeling Studios, who are best known for their game, Californium, about science fiction pioneer Philip K. Dick. Additional funding was provided by ARTE, a government funded European outlet for culture. Collaborations like this ensure that interesting games featuring unusual premises can continue to be made.
Should you get it?
Originally created for mobile devices, the game recently made its way to the Switch, where I found it. At around an hour of gameplay, the game is operated entirely by touch, making it feel slightly off for this device. The iOS/Android version is probably a better choice if you’re considering purchase.
Homo Machina is fun and I would recommend it if you have an interest in puzzle games and a some extra cash lying around. Supporting games like this means that developers will continue to take risks, creating tiny masterpieces that might not be massive commercial successes but add much needed variety to the gaming landscape.