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Developer: Disney
Price: $.99 HD $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

The Incredible Machine is the Disney version of the wildly popular 1992 Rube Goldberg physics puzzler from Sierra.

With the buzz generated at GDC ‘11 and the subsequent success of Casey’s Contraptions, which first brought a proper Rube Goldberg machine game to iOS earlier this year, it was a given that copycats would emerge.

But, there is a reason why the two games follow so quickly on each other’s heels and it’s not just a case of “me too” development.

According to TUAW, Jeff Tunnell, one of the original programmers of The Incredible Machine was recently hired by Playdom, which in turn is owned by Disney Interactive. So when he wanted to do a faithful rendition of the classic, Disney jumped on board.

But they somehow miss the mark, neither quite recapturing the now retro look of the original, nor bringing anything new to the table, although the mechanics of the game are true to the original.

Players must move objects: ropes, beams, pipes, balls, cheese and other assorted thematic elements –  90 total spread across 75 levels – to create chain-reactions that achieve simple goals like dropping a ball into a box, or getting a mouse to their hole. Oddly, there’s a frequent recurring theme of alligators eating cute cuddly things. I don’t quite get if that’s supposed to be ironic or dark, but it’s just feels weird and disconnected.

Success on one level is required to unlock the next. And, while the first levels are ridiculously simple, further along they require some trial and error, which is part of the fun.

But when things gets tricky, and they do especially on the newly released expert levels, there is nowhere to look for help.

Caseys Contraption’s handles this with originality by allowing users to peek at other’s players solutions; with The Incredible Machine, it’s between gamer and contraption alone.

The replay value is almost entirely locked into the three-star system so popular in simple puzzlers, but it doesn’t really add much. The controls function with less precision than expected from a Disney-branded game, and some objects feel a little too sticky. Things are supposed to just lock into place, but too often they don’t, at least not easily, especially for the younger players Disney seems to be targeting, considering the number of monkeys in the game.

A level editor -missing from this release – seems like a no-brainer for this type of game: who doesn’t want to make their own Rube Goldberg machines? Instead, if you want to extend the game, you have to purchase one of the three available additional levels in-app. On the plus side, a recent update makes this game universal: at $2.99 for the main show, it’s fair.

The graphics are the real issue here. They are neither retrofied, nor spit-shined to make them look crisp. Instead the levels look washed out and the art uninspired.

Despite Tunnell’s involvement, this doesn’t feel or look quite like the original The Incredible Machine. Disney is definitely serving up  fun, but this port lacks the production value users expect from the brand. If they were going for reinvented, the game falls short there, too, not bringing anything new to make up for its late entry to iOS. It’s going to sell to fans of the original, but if it comes down to what is the best Rube Goldberg puzzler on the App Store, this comes in a distant second.

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