The Magic Toy Chest
The house is a mess! Toys are everywhere, and your mother is demanding you clear them all up. Tidying up is so boring... so why not make a game out of it instead? Getting those toys into the toy chest by using your other toys to knock, roll or smash them out of the way is much more fun.
The Magic Toy Chest is a physics-based puzzler in the same mould as The Incredible Machine. A puzzle consists of a screen with numerous toys, platforms and obstacles laid out, and your task is to get a set number of a particular toy into the toy chest. You do this by placing and activating toys on the screen - these vary in their effect. Balls, for instance, roll down slopes and can knock things over. Your first task is often to collect all the keys on the level in order to open the chest.
The range of toys provides plenty of scope for puzzles. Trucks, teddies, blocks, rockets, helicopters, bats, trains, dogs... a host of toys is available for use. Any toys you place on the screen can be picked up and moved again, while toys initially on the screen are "locked" and can be activated but not moved. Knock these into the toy chest, however, and you can pick them up and use them too - a neat touch!
Controls are mostly mouse with some keyboard shortcuts (such as "R" to restart a level) and very straightforward. Choose actions or toys to place with the left mouse button and drop toys onto the screen with same. Pick up toys you have placed with the right mouse button (as well as those knocked in the toy box). You can also activate toys by clicking on the action button and then the toy, and you can rotate toys before you place them. Aim to complete the puzzle within the time limit and in as few moves as possible for bonus stars.
Graphics are high quality and quite cartoony. The various toys all react appropriately to the game world physics - the robot's gravity reversal is a good test of this - and quite charmingly. Build a tall tower of alphabet blocks and watch them wobble! Backgrounds are bright and can sometimes be a little bewildering, though there are options to dim them, blur them or even render them as old photographs if you find them too distracting. That said, look out for the Powerpuffins poster. Little touches like this are great. [EDIT: Since publication of this review, TMTC has been rereleased with updated graphics. Check out my Bytten blog!]
Sound features a range of suitable sound effects as toys activate, launch, beep, bark, spring or collapse, yet these are never cacophanous. A range of music tracks accompany the game and vary between puzzles.
TMTC is borderline addictive. Puzzles can be attempted in any order, with the completion of enough in each room allowing you access to others. There's a helpful set of tutorials that demonstrate the basics and how the different toys work. You can replay as often as you like, and there's a three-star rating for each puzzle - if you can do it faster or more efficiently, you could boost the previous score. The game physics mean that games can sometimes play slightly differently each time but this effect is not usually noticeable.
In addition to the standard puzzles and their replayability, you can also construct new puzzles in the level editor. It's fairly intuitive but some further instructions would be useful! You can also swap puzzles with friends or online, so there's technically no end to them. This is also a useful way to play around with objects and experiment.
There aren't many downsides to TMTC. One area that annoyed the grammar pedant in me was the game text, which is prone to slips here and there, though it never caused any real confusion about what I was supposed to do. Another minor niggle is that the restart key "R" takes you back to the puzzle description rather than plain resetting the puzzle (in the manner of, say, Professor Fizzwizzle), but again this is hardly a major problem. I'd also have liked to see the various background filters in operation on the title screen before I selected one for my profile.
This is a welcome brain-stretching exercise for all TIM fans, and ideal for parents looking to stretch their children - no violence, bright and cheerful, encouraging logical thought... and it might inspire them to tidy their rooms, but I can't promise anything in that direction! Now I'm off to try setting up a domino rally...
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