The Incredible Machine
Professor Tim wants you to "start his engine," with as many objects as you can. Hey, we're just taking it at face value.
A ball bounces onto a switch. The switch triggers a laser, and the laser fires, activating a pulley. The pulley drops another ball, which rolls forward and starts up the fan. The fan blows, knocking another ball off a ledge, and so on and so forth until the process seems convoluted enough to make ones brain explode. This is the Rube Goldberg device, a system devised to perform a simple task, say turning on an engine, in the most ridiculous, convoluted way possible. Goldberg knew he had something way back in 1930 and now, modern game companies are finally cashing in on the anticipation factor surrounding a Goldberg device.
It's a simple idea really, and it's akin to setting up dominoes. Creating a Goldberg device allows players in games to construct a series of events that will ultimately achieve a simplistic goal, and the reward will be their satisfaction in building such a convoluted structure. That is the most obvious incentive in The Incredible Machine, Vivendi Mobile's recreation of the popular PC franchise. The original was released in 1992 on the PC and Macintosh platforms, there has been a mountain of sequels, and even more modern incarnations are available on the GameTap service, as well as a rumored release in the works for the Xbox Live Arcade.
The mobile version, in particular, has the player assume the role of assistant to Professor Tim, a rather zany Dr. Wily clone, and use the many objects scattered around the laboratory to solve puzzles. Each puzzle begins with certain objects already in locked position, and the player is forced to work around them to achieve a solution, which will be a goal set forth by the game. The first puzzle, of a total 80 available throughout the game, suggested the player, "Start the Engine." Using a laser and mirrors to redirect the beam players are able to do so in a number of different ways. Making it through the long series of puzzles players will work on harder setups and use more objects, as well as unlock various backgrounds to make the progress a little more visually appealing.
The only real negative issue present in the entire preview build was that of vague direction. Suggesting the player to, "Start the Engine," was nearly impossible for someone like me, who had never experienced The Incredible Machine in any of its previous incarnations. Should the laser fire onto the engine, do lasers need to be plugged in, where on the engine does the laser need to fire, what is the second laser in the level for? All these questions could have been solved with more detailed instruction and a clearer definition of the games goals. A tutorial level, or levels, would have been most helpful. Also, in my utter failure at solving the puzzles I grew very common in seeing Professor Tim, announcing my failure with, "You Loose." Either Tim is quite the mocking bastard, or that should probably be fixed.
Luckily, the 34 objects contained within the game do have a menu, and descriptions suggesting the possible reasons to use each one. A certain ball may fall and bounce well, while another can be heavy and not bounce at all. Blimps float back and forth until striking an object, and a laundry basket is useful for catching a mouse. Yes, mice are included somewhere within the game, as they probably should be considering the Goldberg devices most popular example is the board game Mouse Trap.
The Incredible Machine doesn't only allow the players to use the determined pieces to solve one of the puzzles, but it also contains a Free Play mode in which the player can create a monstrosity of a Goldberg device with no real purpose other than his own deviant pleasure. Do you need to use 5 lasers, 3 varieties of balls, an engine, a boxing glove, and a blimp to power a light switch? No, but is it fun? Absolutely.
Vivendi Mobile is hoping to provide players that fun starting this July, when The Incredible Machine will be available.