If you had an obsession with the ‘The Incredible Machine‘ series back in the day, then this latest offering from the Bumpkin Brothers may well be right up your street. The Machine is a far simpler beast, with coloured boxes to stack away and conveyor belts to move everything into its required position.
It’s all very charming and enjoyable stuff that starts off strong and continually challenges you to come up with amazing designs and use all the space provided. Later puzzles can be a little tricky, and it would have been nice to be able to skip past the harder machines instead of having to tackle them in a linear fashion, yet there’s no denying that The Machine is a great way to spend an evening.
On each of The Machine‘s 33 levels, the idea is to fulfil your boss’ order by placing a number of coloured cubes into a dumpster. A dispenser churns white cubes out, and your job is to place down conveyor belts to move the cubes along and into the goal. Each level has different requirements, ranging from different numbers of cubes, a variation of colours and different sizes.
Once the conveyor belts have been properly introduced, that’s when things start to get interesting. Paint guns spray cubes specific colours, and two-way conveyor belts allow you to split your stream of cubes up and spray them all different colours to satisfy the level’s requirements. Later levels introduced more and more wacky and challenging ideas, with a splitter machine that can turn a big cube into two small ones, and a cannon that blasts cubes across gaps in the level.
The level of creativity is astonishing. The Machine plays a bit like a Sudoku puzzle – you start by filling in the spaces that are obvious, then piece the rest of the puzzle around them. Putting together a beast of a machine is very satisfying, especially in later levels, and is made much easier thanks to a variety of simple one-touch options, such as editing and deleting placed pieces and speeding up the action once everything is in order.
Our only real issue with the story mode is its linear nature. If you find yourself stuck on a later puzzle – and believe us, you will – there is no way to skip this puzzle and try the next one. Each puzzle must be completed in order, hence you only ever have one new puzzle available at a time. It’s a shame, as it adds a slight sense of frustration that could have otherwise been avoided.
Apart from the main puzzling, you’ve also got a free play mode, a level designer and community levels. Free play does exactly what it says on the tin – you’re provided with a blank slate and every machine piece, and it’s a case of building the biggest and most badass machine you can. Our personal lack of creativity meant that our own machines were a bit rubbish, but we can definitely see how certain players will be able to lose hours to this mode.
The level designer is like free play, except that you’re in fact building machines for other people to head-scratch over. Once your machine is built, you’re able to choose the level requirements and locked-down pieces, then upload it for other players to try. It’s a great feature, although understandably there aren’t too many community-built levels at the moment!
As mentioned previously, The Machine is really charming. It has a very casual feel to it, with bright colours and funny little workmen helping you every step of the way. No-one is unhappy in the land of The Machine, even when the difficult levels come to call.
Every level is doused in white, with a plain cream backdrop and white cubes everywhere – that is, of course, until you begin to build your machine and bring the level to life. It perhaps would have been nice to have a range of different backdrops rather than just the simple one-colour available, but there’s no denying that The Machine definitely has style.
The interface is simple and very effective. Only the bare essential buttons are available for clicking, and each has its important uses. We never found ourselves confused at any point, and building your machine is always a piece of cake (although winning the level is a different matter!).
While The Machine does feature little men giving you jobs and telling you how to build your contraptions, there isn’t really a story as such. No explanation is given as to why you’re dumping coloured blocks or who you’re doing it for. It doesn’t take too much away from the gameplay, but we would have liked to have seen some form of story to wrap it all up.
The Machine is lovely, elegant fun that will easily fill an evening – and beyond, if the free play mode is your kind of thing. Even with the fact that you can’t skip the more difficult later levels, we’re still recommending this out-right, especially for any gamers looking to delve into a casual gaming experience or two.