|Cannons and boxing gloves and cats, oh my!|
The Incredible Machine was designed and coded by a guy named Kevin Ryan and published by Sierra Entertainment in 1992. It was a Rube Goldberg-esque puzzle game with almost a hundred unique puzzles and the ability to create your own, making for a mind-bending blast of a game.
There really is no story in The Incredible Machine. It's a pure puzzle game at its very best. You don't have lives or motivation; your only goal is to finish all of the puzzles.
There's not a whole ton to say when it comes to graphics. In essence, every object very clearly looks like what it is. A pair of bellows looks like a pair of bellows, a cat looks like a cat, etc. That's really all you need.
Beyond that, the game doesn't have a whole lot of graphical bells and whistles. The background is completely blue at all times. The score ticker actually looks pretty slick, but doesn't do much other than tick.
A lot of people might not like such barebones graphics, but to me, it completely makes this game. It fits; it just feels right.
The Incredible Machine is an exercise in coming up with really complex solutions to simple problems. You get a pretty large range of items to help you create your contraptions, from simple objects like ropes and pulleys to much more complex items like generators, engines, power outlets, and mice in cages. Most objects connect to at least one other object in some way (seesaws to ropes, a conveyor belt to a cable, etc). The objects that don't connect will usually have some sort of interaction with another object instead (cats go towards a fishbowl when it's broken, scissors pop balloons, etc.).
You start with a very simple puzzle: putting a ball in a hoop.
From there, you go through a series of 86 other increasingly more complex puzzles, teaching you how to use every item in the game.
|Pictured: HOLY FUCK!|
Thankfully, the game has a very nice learning curve. Some puzzles also have altered gravity where it's either very powerful so things fall quickly or it's very weak, like the moon, so things fall slowly.
There's always a score ticker at the bottom that counts downward at a set rate, so the faster you solve a puzzle, the more points you'll get. The points are largely meaningless other than to see how much better you've gotten at the game.
The best way to explain this game, though, is just to show it. Here's a short clip showing the first several levels. It clearly shows the entire setup including the start of a puzzle, the tips and information about a puzzle you're given before it begins, the bank of items (and how it changes from level to level), the score ticker, and the completion of a puzzle.
The soundtrack in TIM did its purpose well: stayed in the background. A lot of it stands up on its own pretty well, but most of it is very background-y. I'm not a huge fan of listening to it standalone, but I'll say that it never interferes with finishing a puzzle. In fact, it can be quite soothing on some levels.
Here's your standard sample. This is a VERY well done YouTube video; it's long, but when it first starts, there's a popup for a 'tracklisting' of sorts. That way, you can just click and jump around from song to song.
Here's part two of the soundtrack, setup in the same way so you can pick your track.
Replay Value: 10/10
The Incredible Machine actually had a surprising amount of replay value. It was fun enough replaying through so many of the standard puzzles, but on top of that, they also included the freeform mode. Basically, you can build your own puzzles with no time constraints or item limits. There's no end to the Goldberg-style madness you can come up with, creating puzzles to try and stump yourself or having your friends try to solve the ones you've made.
The Incredible Machine is a phenomenally fun game. It's basically Rube Goldberg: The Game. Go, buy it now! If you can't find a copy, since the original is SUPER hard to find, download a freeware/abandonware version of it on the interwebz. It runs perfectly fine in DOSbox. Below are links to buy updated/newer versions of the same style of game.