Overall Score 70%
I have a sense of deja vu with this one. The Machine features a big green contraption that makes things. This puts me in mind of a 1980s children's TV series titled "Bertha", which also featured a big green contraption that made things. "Bertha, lovely Bertha... sometimes I think you're a dream..." Ah, nostalgia.
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to fill a series of orders for blocks. They can be white blocks, green blocks, red blocks, blue blocks, small blocks, large blocks... but you've gotta make 'em. This involves placing the provided parts in the right places so that the blocks are produced, processed and delivered to the dumper box. You (generally) have just enough parts to do this, so the challenge comes from knowing just where to place them all.
You are introduced to parts in a steady progression - basic conveyor belts, paint sprays to colour blocks, two-way conveyors, splitters, lifts... even cannons to fire blocks across the screen! Combining these so that they fill the order is always a challenge - early puzzles have a limited surface, so there are limited places to put your components, but later on the exact positioning is more open to experiment. Do you put the paint spray there, and the conveyor belt round the corner? Or do you put the splitter in first and the spray after it? There's no limit to how often you attempt a puzzle, so feel free to experiment.
Controls are a mix of mouse and keyboard, with the mouse used to position parts and select options and the keyboard used to rotate the view and zoom in/out. Rotate parts with the right mouse button and position with the left. A set of icons along the top of the game screen let you select parts, edit placed parts and start the machine off. There are also pause and fast forward controls to slow or speed up the action, and you can stop the machine if it's all going wrong to make adjustments (though this resets the order - you can't do it in pieces).
The graphics are functional, but not particularly pretty. The character art is the warmest aspect of the game, with everything else made up of primitives (even the blocks you are producing are just single colour blocks). Everything seems flat - the lack of textures is the main problem. Still, the lack of graphical detail does allow more focus on the puzzles themselves. Even the interface is very simplistic, with flat buttons and static screens. Complete a puzzle and a shower of coloured squares falls down the screen - again, rather flat; they easily merge into each other. Sound is pretty good, however. There are two jolly tracks to accompany the menu and main game and a range of sound effects for the various machine components. The splitter sounds particularly odd!
It's easy to get the hang of the basics. One nice touch is when placing a new component you have a lot of (particularly treadmills) - place one, and another is already selected. Having to select a new block every time would have been tedious! Other nice little touches include the physics of the game - get a treadmill positioned wrong and you can see blocks falling to the floor in little wobbly stacks, eventually toppling as the pile gets too large. The keyboard input is weird, however - I'm consistently trying (and failing) to zoom with the mouse wheel. There's no reason why the mouse couldn't be used to control the camera, though having keyboard controls as well is never a bad idea.
The game's longevity suffers a little from the puzzle selection. You can replay puzzles as often as you like, but only one new puzzle is open at a time - so if you get stuck, you're unable to look ahead. Longevity is boosted by the community puzzles and the puzzle designer, which allows you to construct your own torturous teasers and release them to the world. There's also a free play mode which, like the designer, allows you to mess around a bit. I'm not clear why there are two modes like this, as they could easily be combined.
While The Machine is briefly diverting, it is a very simple game. It lacks the style and depth to score much higher than this, but I hope that Bumpkin Brothers will take the plunge and produce something with more substance in the near future.
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