The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions is incredible. It’s incredible how much of your time it can suck away. Like a really good book with really short chapters, you just keep telling yourself that you will complete one more quick contraption and then take a break. Hours later you emerge from your computer, bleary-eyed with your mind spinning and wondering why on earth you just had to break three more fish tanks just to get that darn Mel off to work.
Breaking fish tanks is a common sub-goal of this game. What kind of sick mind thought that up? There are little digital fish swimming around in the tanks and you’re just desperate to break them with cannons, pulleys, reflected laser beams and hot air balloons, and that list is just a fraction of the items available to play with.
So what’s this game about? It’s about contraptions, ridiculous, frustrating addictive contraptions. You can build them yourself, or worse you can attempt to solve someone else’s. The game comes with a vast number of contraptions from easy to difficult that the player is supposed to solve.
You are given a playing field. On the field are several items. You are given a goal, like "Get the mouse in his house and Mel off to work." Then below the playing field is a toolbox. You must use the items in your toolbox to complete the contraption such that the mouse will end up in his house and Mel will go to work. That doesn’t make any sense you say? Of course not. Let me explain it.
Mel might be standing on a platform that can be moved by a pulley. In your toolbox you will have a set of pulleys. These will have to be strung correctly to get Mel moving. The mouse meanwhile might be trapped behind a wall of vegetation. The plants will, of course, have to be burned away by a rocket. Unfortunately, the rocket begins falling immediately after you place it. So maybe the vegetation is at the top of the playing field and you can use a bouncing board to send the rocket back up to the top after you use a starter to light it? Will it explode before it gets back up to the vegetative wall? Will the fire kill the mouse? These are the burning questions that will keep you up nights with this game.
I’m not impressed with the graphics. Actually they are terrible. Everything is drawn two-dimensionally, but sometimes the playing field acts like it’s two-dimensional and sometimes it acts like it’s three-dimensional. A pulley can be placed in what would be midair but a rocket when placed in the same location will drop to the bottom of the screen. Actual physics has little or nothing to do with the game. The playing field is too small. The goal of the puzzle takes up a huge amount space on the left side of the screen. Some objects can be strung together willy-nilly, but if you don’t have a starter in the exact right place your rocket will not light no matter how much you want it to.
I’m bitter because this game shouldn’t be nearly as good as it is. With its lousy graphics and its tiny playing field I should be panning it. Any yet, I could not leave it alone. Puzzles you can’t solve in one sitting will haunt you. You just have to go back and work on them. You drag other people into the room to get a fresh set of eyes. Then they too are doomed.
I spent most of my time playing with other’s contraptions. However, you can build your own (which is even more difficult and frustrating than trying to solve the pre-loaded contraptions) or get online and download other peoples puzzles as well as make yours available to them in a feature called puzzle swap.
I only checked once to see if this worked. It did, but I was too afraid to use it, lest my puzzles be judged. I did however work my way through every puzzle on the disc in a blood, sweat and tears hair-pulling kind of way. The last thing I wanted was to swap puzzles with some other crazy person. Oh yes, and if playing alone wasn’t bad enough, there is a two-player feature.
This game is nothing to look at. Its rules seem arbitrary and ridiculous to me. Still I give it 4 out of 5 GiN gems, because I could not stop playing it.
Developers: Sierra Entertainment
Platforms: Mac, PC