Zany Rube Goldberg contraptions are the center of this fun, kid-friendly title.
I always loved Rube Goldberg machines when I was a kid. There was something thrilling about watching one contraption set off another in a complex chain reaction to reach the end of the course. I played with Domino Ralley sets for hours, setting up my own chain reactions in our living room, much to the dismay of my poor parent’s feet. The Incredible Machine series first launched in the early 90s on the Mac/PC/3DO platforms, but has stuck with PC/Mac up until now. I played at least a couple iterations of the original game back in the day, which had a much more sandbox feel at the time.
Over 15 years later, Disney Mobile is bringing Rube Goldberg contraptions to your iPad with a level-based game that has you seeking out the oh-so-coveted 3-star rating by completing a series of pre-made machines. You are presented with a machine that is generally about 80-95% built, and you must use available parts to complete the machine, following specific instructions. The goals themselves are fairly straightforward, and range from “Score a basket” to “Get the baseballs into the box” to “Feed the mouse to the alligator.” Each level pack uses a different theme for the contained puzzles. The first pack uses pipes, while the last (included) pack deals with exploding and burning things. MMmmm… burning… explosions… muahahaha… *ahem*
Unfortunately, dragging objects onto the preexisting machine isn’t always as simple as knocking down dominoes. The game features a sporadic “snap” system that auto-aligns pieces to existing parts. Most of the time this was helpful, but sometimes it became very difficult to rotate and drop an object in the desired place. On the opposite end, there are times where I really wish a “snap-to” system was in place, but it apparently only applies to certain objects.
There certainly was a nice variety of items to use in The Incredible Machine, each with it’s own realistic physics system. Sliding a bowling ball down a ramp onto a platform reacted much differently than doing the same with, say, a basketball or a pinball. You can use a magnifying glass to ignite a rocket’s fuse, use a remote detonator to destroy wood paneling, or place down some cheese to attract a mouse. There is even a little human character named Mel (You know… “Lem” spelled backwards… get it?) that can be used to walk and push objects. The physics in The Incredible Machine are top notch, and everything seemed to behave as I expected it to. Granted, with the way the game holds your hand, there’s not a ton of room for experimenting with different ways of doing things, as each puzzle tends to have one path to completion.
Right off the bat it appears quite evident to me that Disney is planning a lot more on kids playing this game, rather than adults. I was able to breeze through the initial 60 levels in under 90 minutes, 3-starring about 96% of the levels on my first or second try. Experienced gamers will likely question the $2.99 price tag in light of this. That said, I highly doubt younger gamers will have such an easy time, and will probably get a lot more out of the four included level packs than I did. Three other level packs are available to purchase for 99 cents – oddly without any information on what you’re getting for your buck aside from the pack’s name and image. I bought two of the three, and found that both, while generally more entertaining than the included packs, were extremely easy to complete very quickly. One of the paid level packs features some cool puzzles that involve gears and conveyor belts, but due to the way to game clearly points out where to place them, I flew through these levels very quickly. Had a free-build sandbox mode, or the ability to share and play user-made levels online, been included in the initial game, the value of The Incredible Machine would have doubled or tripled. At the moment, there’s no replay value, and the game is very short for a $3 title.
The Incredible Machine is a great game for kids, but if you’re an experienced gamer there’s not much to be said for challenging content or replayability. I question the decision to hold back 45 levels for in-game purchasing when the included levels don’t really satisfy on their own. I think it would have been a better idea to include a good mix of 80-90 levels with the initial purchase, and throw in a “challenge pack” with more difficult levels, or a “sandbox pack” with a free-build mode and more objects to purchase in-game. The Incredible Machine makes for a fun children’s title with it’s cute characters and simple puzzles, but won’t come close to satisfying older gamers who are looking for a challenge.
Final Score for KID Gamers
Final Score for experienced ADULT Gamers