I love it when a flash game presents you with a tried and true formula and still has the ability to get you thinking. Wallace and Gromit are back with another game, Wallace's Workshop; a physics puzzler that will well and truly test your noggin. Necessity is the mother of invention and apparently it's a necessity to get Crash-Test-Wallace from one end of a workshop into a waiting chute by inventing contraptions to help him get there. You'll use a variety of apparatus and mechanisms in your creations including balloons, motors, wheels and rockets. There's even dynamite!
Using your mouse you can select, rotate, place and glue items to the peg-board background, and items can be easily connected together by a simple snap mechanism. Very little time is needed to familiarize yourself with the screen and game elements, and there are helpful tips if required. The inventory is on the right of the screen and can be opened by moving your mouse over it. There's also an action bar, and a menu at the top of the screen which includes home, save, discard and test buttons. Once you've created a contraption hit the test button and watch what happens. You can also use the test button to preview any existing items and figure out what needs to be added to make the contraption work.
If you want more information, you can click on the question-mark next to the item in the inventory and a brief explanation of the item and what it does will open. Another nice little feature is the ability to scroll around the screen; you can do this by simply clicking, holding and dragging.
Before starting the game you can choose to create a BBC Online iD, or play without. Creating an iD gives you access to The Practice Shed where you can experiment and create any kind of contraption you like with no goal other than to have fun. Completing game levels unlocks more items for you to use. The game will automatically save your progress, allowing you to take a break and come back to the game later. Every good inventor needs time to eat, sleep and... other things.
Analysis: Essentially, Wallace's Workshop has all that is great about physics games, with some sandbox fun thrown in as well. Throughout the game, Wallace will coach you with encouragement or question your logic, which actually gets a little annoying at times, especially when you're testing and re-testing your inventions. There is a mute button, but it will take all the sound-effects out as well as Wallace's voice.
Patience is a prerequisite for this puzzler; the time between launching Crash-Test-Wallace and his eventual nose-dive into the chute can be a little too prolonged, and there's no fast-forward button. Still, there's something beautiful about watching the dummy wobble elegantly on his motorized perch, or his gangly limbs flailing about as he flies across the workshop.
Some of the puzzles are really challenging and will test your powers of logic. The great thing about Wallace's Workshop though is that, apart from the first few levels, there's more than one solution. This gives all potential inventors that space to tinker away and experiment on different ways to propel Crash-Test-Wallace towards his destination. There's definite replay value with such freedom to create.
So, if you're in the mood for some puzzle solving and experimentation you'll certainly have your curiosity satisfied with a whopping 33 levels to solve. There are also bonus levels to be unlocked in early November, and with The Practice Shed, this is a super-sized game of invention that will test and amuse inventors of all ages and ability.