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The Incredible Machine (DOS)

80
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Condemned (70)
Written on  :  Dec 13, 2009
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Brilliant puzzler

The Good

First off, such nostalgia going back and playing this old classic... and remembering the countless hours in front of the computer monitor struggling to figure out a difficult puzzle with family and friends. This is a really addictive game, and lots of fun to share with others... you'll all be tossing out your best advice, or just sitting back and admiring the thousands of intricacies incorporated into the game.

And that's perhaps the most amazing feature of the game, its intricacies. While not 100% accurate, the physics are astoundingly complex - the slightest movement of an object can turn the puzzle from unbeatable to solved! Really, I just went through over the last week and played every puzzle, marveling all the way at the ingenious design of each task. Seriously, load the pre-made freeform machine called "Mice". Simply brilliant!

There's so much freedom associated in the game as well... though the goal may be singular, the ways to solve each puzzle are practically infinite - using the tools provided, complete the task by any means necessary. Sure, the designers intend for a certain solution, providing you with just enough of the parts necessary. But, if you can solve it with less, or by taking a shortcut... no problem! Love that freedom.

The learning curve is lessened by the first 21 puzzles being classified as "tutorials", with basically each puzzle introducing a new item or two for you to incorporate into your knowledge.

The ability to play in "freeform mode" is perhaps the most fun aspect of the game, especially once you've achieved the satisfaction of beating all 87 of the pre-made puzzles. Designing your own machine, with access to all the tools and parts, and then demonstrating them for your friends, never loses its enjoyment.

The re-playability is high, because with the exception of the rudimentary tutorial levels, you may struggle with remembering how you went about solving a puzzle previously (or not be able to re-create the rare combination that achieved success prior!). And that's a good thing, the game can continue feeling fresh each time you play. And with Freeform Mode, you can truly play forever...

The Bad

Even though the player is eased into the "TIM" world by the large amount of tutorial levels, a new player may find it tough to grasp the concept of the game at first. You have to think mechanically, and some people just aren't suited to it... frustration may ensue! But I think most people get hooked once they solve a puzzle or two.

At times, the physics and collision detection fail, but that's probably to be expected in a game this original and of its era. But it can so frustrating to have what you think is the proper solution, only to watch, say, your bowling ball magically disappear through a solid wall! Also, impracticalities like a small fan blowing a mouse across the screen just don't make literal sense. But again, you kind of adjust your reality to the confines and nuances of the game's logic as you get used to it.

One thing I wish the game had was the ability to save and replay your solutions to solved puzzles. The way the game is set up, once you've defeated a puzzle, you have a brief moment to select "Replay" or "Advance". Pressing "Replay" does an instant replay of your solution... but once you hit "Advance", you move on to the next puzzle and your unique solution is now gone from memory forever. Not a critical fault, but something I find lacking.

The Bottom Line

Just a great game, and it really is enjoyable for all ages. I just introduced it over the last week to my girlfriend (26), my sister (10), and my nephew (7), and they all got really into it, straining and struggling to figure out not only the puzzle solutions, but how each piece functioned in the "TIM" world. Even my Grandma (80) recalls playing the game when it was new, and having fun...