The Incredible Machine (Mega Pack)
If your idea of a good puzzle involves balls, gears, conveyor belts, balloons, ropes, mice, cats, monkeys, guns and gravity, you can not go wrong to invest in the original Rube Goldberg-inspired puzzle game and Sierra classic, The Incredible Machine, created by Kevin Ryan.
The concept behind The Incredible Machine is very simple and one that has been copied in one way or another by countless puzzle outings since inspiring a generation of gamers back in 1994. It uses the idea of a Rube-Goldberg machine, an overly elaborate setup to achieve a simple task - a concept celebrated by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Goonies and countless Youtube videos. The Incredible Machine has spawned its own share of sequels, nearly all of which are present in this mega-pack. The idea is simple: each puzzle presents you with a different challenge to construct an elaborate chain-reaction towards a goal. For example; you have to burst three balloons present on the screen. Along with this will be some pre-set elements normally used throughout the puzzles and you are given a selection of similar items to accomplish the task.
For example, say the challenge is to pop a balloon. On the scene is the balloon, as well as a mouse in a cage, a conveyor belt, a ball over the cage and a ball on the belt. You are given a gun, a see-saw, a rope and something to angle the rope with. The solution would be to aim the gun at the balloon, place the see-saw just below the drop point of the ball on the belt and finally tie the gun and see-saw together, angling the rope to yank the trigger backwards. When you start the machine, the first ball lands on the mouse cage, causing the little sucker to run and start up the belt. The ball on this belt moves forward, drops on the see-saw, which jerks the rope back, pulling the trigger on the gun and bursting the balloon.
This is a simple illustration: the puzzles can become quite complex, involving power switches, generators, rockets, flashlights, cannons, trampolines, monkeys on bicycles, cheese and crocodiles (to name a few). To add complexity, some puzzles even alter air-pressure and gravity. And if you want to flex your imagination, there is the free-form mode where you can build a really elaborate machine that is indeed incredible and might also have your friends and family question if you have too much time on your hands...
Analysis: The Incredible Machine is an undisputed classic and nothing has managed to quite step into its zone yet. There are similar games like this, but nothing has manages the sheer scope that the series has offered. In fact, if the Sierra name was not languishing somewhere in the deep licensing vaults of today's Activision-Blizzard, an iPhone version would be an excellent idea. Thankfully Good Old Games keeps some of the dream alive with this terrific mega pack.
The pack more-or-less brings all of the series together, with the exception of Incredible Toons. The four games represent the four best releases, but it's the whole deal. The Even More Incredible Machine is the first game, but with more puzzles, while The Incredible Machine 3 is the second game, but redesigned to work in Windows. So you are not losing anything and with hundreds of levels this is beyond a steal. It's shaking down the local school's pre-graders for candy and having the teachers help you.
It should be noted, though, that The Incredible Machine was developed before games became insanely convenient within their interface features. It plays easily, but every time you quit and go back you'll need to remember which level you were on last, as the game unlocks chunks of levels at a go. This annoyance goes away bit by bit in the subsequent games, but if you didn't cut your teeth on early-Nineties PC games, this might come as a bit strange. It does not, however, detract from this classic title's awesomeness.
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