With the popularity of physics-based puzzlers and the recent release of Casey’s Contraptions, it’s not surprising to see some of the classic examples of the genre hit the App Store. The Incredible Machine is a nearly legendary PC game, right up there with Tetris and Lemmings in terms of its importance in the history of the puzzle game. Casey’s Contraptions was heavily based off this classic and now that the two are side-by-side, fans of crazy contraptions have an incredible variety of things to do.
As beloved as the Incredible Machine is, the transition to the iPad isn’t a completely smooth one. The basic concept is exactly the same as Casey’s Contraptions– you use a variety of tubes, tools, balls, and other generally mundane household items to get an object from point A to point B. In the Incredible Machine, there’s an odd focus on using cats, mice, crocodiles, and a little boy to complete the partially-completed mechanisms on the screen.
Heeeeere, kitty, kitty, kitty.
We’ll assume that all these creatures are toys, otherwise the game takes on a disturbing bent when the object is to lure the mouse into a position to be eaten by the cat or the croc. Worse, some of the levels involve the little boy getting eaten by the croc, which even for toys seems a tad disturbing. That aside, the classic gameplay holds up well. Each level gives you specific parts to use to complete a simple goal, such as getting five baseballs into a box on the opposite side of the screen.
To complete these bizarre tasks, pipes, boxing gloves, ropes, explosives, lasers, rockets, and plenty of other items must be placed on the screen in creative ways. The level design is hit and miss though. Many puzzles are riotously easy– right down to including just one item to place– while others are stunningly trying. Unlike Casey’s Contraptions, there’s no help feature, and Game Center integration is minor at best. So if you’re stuck, your only option is to just move on to another level.
A bowling ball as big as a house.
The Incredible Machine comes with 60 levels (plus four tutorial levels) and over 90 different objects, so it’s not a bad deal at $2.99. The game also includes three more map packs that can be purchased for 99 cents each, which means that you have to pay another three dollars for the extra 45 levels. The game is fun, but definitely not worth six bucks.
Another disappointment is the absence of the old sandbox mode, where you could create your own contraptions from scratch. On the plus side, the physics feel a bit more realistic than Casey’s Contraptions, though the difference is minor. The cartoonish graphics are quaint and colorful, with minimal animation.
It’s almost painful for old school fans of the Incredible Machine to hear, but it would be hard to recommend the Incredible Machine over its competition. The level design is uneven, the content a bit too strange at times, and the online features are lackluster. The core gameplay is still a lot of fun though, and there are plenty of brain-bending challenges. As with most bouts of nostalgia though, this is a game that remains better in our memory than in its modern execution.