'Homo Machina' Puzzle Game Takes You on a Beautiful Adventure Through the Body as Imagined by Fritz Kahn

On Thursday, digital design studio Darjeeling Productions released a new mobile adventure puzzle game, Homo Machina, a mind-boggling delight with complex puzzles and intricate graphics. Created as a kind of tribute to the little-known genius of scientific illustrator Fritz Kahn, the game takes players through a day in the life of a human body, exploring many fascinating processes out body undergoes in a day.

Upon waking, few of us take time to consider the miraculous mechanics of the human body. In Homo Machina, however, banalities like opening the eyes or catching a whiff of the morning brew take center stage, becoming engaging little puzzles that give animated insight into how our bodies operate.

Homo Machina leans heavily on Kahn's vivid and creative imagery, which have led the German doctor to become known as the Grandfather of Infographics. During his lifetime, Kahn enjoyed modest fame, having authored some 20 books and laying the ideological groundwork for thousands of illustrations that explained the inner workings of the human body in everyday, non-medical language.

Until recently, however, Kahn had been all but unknown in medical and artistic communities as his work was buried and censored by the Nazi Regime during World War II. By chance, Kahn's work was discovered by a young graphic designer, Thilo von Debschitz who, with the aid of his sister Uta, produced a compilation of the doctor's most stunning works in their book, 2009's Fritz Kahn - Man Machine.

Fritz Kahn - Man Machine infographics pioneer Taschen books
Fritz Kahn - Man Machine Taschen Books

The book was discovered a few years later by Darjeeling Productions producer Marc Lustigman. Completely taken with the cover image of Kahn's Man as an Industrial Palace, Lustigman showed the illustration to his business partner. They agreed that it must be made into a mobile game.

Darjeeling pitched the idea to Arte (the French-German equivalent of PBS), where it was met with ecstatic approval. After two years in development, Homo Machina was born, bringing with it all the wonder and beauty of Kahn's work.

'Homo Machina' Gameplay

The adventure begins in the mind of a young man hoping to make a love connection later that day. A white-haired executive doles out instructions from the uppermost portion of the fellow's brain, alerting the nervous system and senses it is time to get the day going. One of the first tasks of the day involves opening the eyes. While complaining that "the eyelids" are heavy, the tiny workman in charge of this task sets about completing it. Players must tap, slide or otherwise manipulate sections the game screen in order to open the eye and allow the light to pour in. The eye becomes a camera to record visual information, inspired by an illustration Khan conceived called "What goes on in our heads when we see a car and say 'car.'"

But opening the eyes is only the beginning. From there, you'll be tasked with identifying a particular smell, consuming breakfast and heading off to work.

And speaking of work -- boy is it stressful! While several of the puzzles may leave you scratching your head, the workday is easily the longest and most stressful part of the entire game -- which is exactly what its creators intended.

"We had hours of conversation about this section," Lustigman told Newsweek. "We kept saying, 'it's too long, we need to make it shorter' but at the end we said, 'No, it's a day of work, it's stressful. We have be exhausted at the end, so let's make it last forever."

With the workday complete, players head into the leisure portion of the game, where the game explores what happens as we enjoy a piece of music or how the heart the body reacts as the protagonist prepares for his date.

All said and done, game can be completed within one or two hours and though some have criticized it for being too short, a brief, but memorable encounter is exactly what the developers had in mind.

"We like the idea of having the idea of a game that has a beginning and an end, which is totally opposite of what the market is doing today," said Lustigman. "We don't like the kind of free-to-play mechanics where players are obsessed with bad feelings and feel the need to buy something to overcome this. For us, it was interesting to make a piece that lasts for one or two hours. It's kind of like getting a ticket for a theatre."

In a time where the mobile games market is inundated with games that opt for free-to-play mechanics that at times border on predatory, paying up front feels like a breath of fresh air.

If you are a fan of adventure puzzle genre, we highly recommend you give Homo Machina a whirl. It is a beautiful experience and one all ages of players can enjoy. The game is available now for $2.99 on both the Google Play and Apple App store.