The Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions
Publisher: Sierra Attractions
Developer: Sierra Attractions
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"Return of the Incredible Machine will certainly appeal to amateur inventors and players who are familiar with Rube Goldberg's work, and anyone who appreciates good old-fashioned puzzles will find plenty to enjoy in the game." -Trey Walker, GameSpot Review
The Incredible Machine puzzle game series has been bringing whimsical Rube Goldberg-style puzzles to the PC for years, and Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions does it better than ever. The game is an excellent combination of serious strategic puzzle-thinking and lighthearted comic action, and more than any other game this year, it exemplifies the joy of puzzles.
Each puzzle begins with an objective, an arrangement of fixed parts, and a toolbox full of parts to be positioned in the contraption. To solve the puzzle, you must arrange items from your toolbox to work with the preset parts so that the resulting arrangement will complete the objective when you press the go button. Some common objectives include turning on a light switch, releasing a balloon, or catching a cat under a basket. Each puzzle contains a part that will initiate a chain reaction when the go button is pressed. A typical solution may involve a bucket that falls onto a mouse cage, which makes the mouse run on the wheel, which turns a pulley that causes a lever to push a ball that rolls down a ramp and knocks an iron off a ledge, turning on a laser beam that pops a balloon, and so forth, eventually completing the puzzle's objective. Most of the puzzles have multiple solutions, and after you find one working arrangement, you'll have the option to view the intended solution.
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The game includes an extensive tutorial section that familiarizes you with the wide variety of parts found in the toolbox, and a wide range of difficulty levels ensures that the game is accessible to both novices and puzzle aficionados. For the would-be inventors, a complete editor lets you design and play your own puzzles, which feels a bit like playing in a sandbox with Tinkertoys, an Erector set, and a box of fireworks all at once. The game has a hands-on feel and a fairly realistic treatment of gravity and physics while still including fun items such as antigravity pads, laser-operated electrical outlets, and chimpanzees on treadmills.
The true brilliance of Contraptions is the way it diffuses any frustration that might arise in the course of trying to solve its many puzzles. Unlike other puzzle games that send you back to the beginning of the level after failing to solve a puzzle, Contraptions lets you repeat a puzzle as many times as necessary without having to rethink the solution from the beginning. The game is experimental in nature, and failure is an expected and accepted part of the process. Incorrect solutions to puzzles often produce amusing results and usually provide a clue to a possible solution. In addition, every puzzle has multiple solutions, and all but the highest-level puzzles include hints to guide you to a correct solution.
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Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions provides almost limitless entertainment for puzzle game fans looking for more thinking than action. Its unique blend of invention, experimentation, humor, and challenging puzzles makes it stand above all other puzzle games this year.