The 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 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?!
Analysis: 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.