The Machine

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The Machine

JohnBThe Machine is a simple-looking but intricate building puzzle game created by Bumpkin Brothers. Just like The Incredible Machine, The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, Armadillo Run and countless other "assembly line" titles, The Machine charges you with fulfilling certain orders using machinery, moving parts, and bits and bobs that change the size or color of the product being manufactured. Things start off simple enough, but as any great puzzle game, before long you'll have plenty to contend with.

The MachineThe Machine is 3D and takes place on a series of cubes floating free in space. Not outer space, just, you know, an empty space. Rotate your point of view using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and zoom in/out with [Q] and [E]. The bar at the top of the screen allows you access to your inventory as well as a few basic tools for editing your creation. To place pieces, just click the big plus sign, select a part, move your cursor over a cube, and click. You can rotate pieces using the [F] key or by clicking the right mouse button.

Now it's time to get something done! Dispensers churn out blank cubes when you switch the machine on. You need to get those cubes to the green bin located somewhere else on the level. At the bottom of the screen you'll see the goals for each stage, something like "three medium blue cubes". Use inventory parts to change the size and color of the blank cubes, and use conveyor belts to move them from point A to point B (a.k.a. point WIN!). Your options are restricted by the level's layout, but figuring out where pieces go and how to accomplish your goal with limited equipment gets challenging.

What's that? You want to play user-created levels and build your own puzzles using an editor? Hey, more power to you! The Machine comes with both features, and they're so easy to use, even a proto-caveman can use them (see what we did there?). Another excellent feature is Free Play that allows you to play around with the game's machinery without worrying about meeting level goals. How awesome is that?!

The MachineAnalysis: The Machine takes the rather colorless world of building puzzle games and adds some whimsy. All of the objects have a quirky look about them, almost as if they were rendered in a 3D drawing program released in 1993. Most of the time this would be disappointing, but here, it's charming. Colors are bright and basic and machines have a cute design to them (a telephone splits cubes?!), so you never get bogged down by the logical details that drive the gameplay.

Normally, building games like this feature dozens of parts with subtly nuanced uses. That's not the case with The Machine, though. In a big step towards the casual world, this puzzle game keeps things simple with fewer than a dozen inventory items to use, each with a specific purpose that's easy to figure out. Don't think that makes the game easy, though. Later on, you'll need to do some serious thinking to come up with the right size and color cubes.

The Machine is a brain-stirring puzzle game that provides challenge with left brained logic puzzles but still manages to encourage unbridled creativity both while playing and while designing levels. Your left brain and your right brain have never been so simultaneously pleased. It's a superb release from Bumpkin Brothers and will keep you busy solving and creating puzzles for weeks to come.

Play The Machine online demo

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Very nice demo, altough it would be great if you could change the 3D view by click-dragging the background instead of having to use the keys.

It reminds me a lot of "Rocknor's Donut Factory", one of the greatest casual games ever made. I tried to re-install it the other day but I can't find my activation code anywhere and Monolux haven't responded to my emails. They don't seem to have made any games since 2003...are they still going?

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The demo was ok while it lasted, but it all seemed a little too easy, and the 3D felt like it got in the way more than it added. Games like these are better in 2D, I think. There was that one level that had two different elevations, but that could've been done with a fence or something.

Anyone bought the full version? Does it get more interesting?

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I bought the full version and am about half-way through. This happens to be exactly my kind of game so I guess I can't give an unbiased recommendation, but I'm having a whole lot of fun :) How far does the demo go?

On the back of the first comment, I also bought Rocknor's Donut Factory. It's just over twice the price but still cheap and has over 3 times the amount of puzzles. It's 2D which you may prefer but I kind of like the 3D aspect of The Machine - on larger multi-tiered levels it looks pretty neat :)

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I thought this game was pretty neat. I am wondering if it's possible to make a Unity game that doesn't scream "This is Unity!" as soon as it runs. (Or even "This is Assets>Confetti!")

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You can get Rocknor's Donut Factory for iPhone

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