App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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It's hard to overstate how good a mobile game feels when it is tailor made for the device you are playing it on. Ports or titles that emulate other kinds of games on other platforms can be nice if they are carefully constructed with touch in mind, but something like Automatoys, where the game doesn't really feel like it would work anywhere else, is a rare kind of game. For what it's worth, outside of its feel, the game is somewhat skin deep, but a fair free-to-start model conveniently lets you decide if this digital toy/puzzle is up your alley enough to spend more time and money on it.
Digital ball in cup
Automatoys is a puzzle game where you guide a little ball through intricate mechanical toys with controlled taps. Pressing on the screen activates specific features of these toys that can do anything from activate a mini-catapult to tilt a ramp. Using this simple, one-touch control method, you have to time your taps to guide the ball through various different stages of the toy to reach a pre-defined exit.
The whole thing feels like the digital equivalent of a ball in a cup or those water games where you can hit buttons to jet water over bits of plastic to try and get them to different goal points. Automatoys is a lot more complicated than these and presents a lot more variety, but otherwise seems modeled after these kinds of puzzle toys.
The selling point of the gameplay in Automatoys is the amount of feedback you get as you navigate its levels. Your phone vibrates with remarkable accuracy to the ball clinking around inside your screen, making for a very tactile experience. This creates a lot of satisfaction when you are able to successfully run through the series of obstacles each level presents.
Automatoys also wouldn't work as well as it does if its machinery was hard to figure out or distinguish visually. Thankfully, the game keeps each level in full view and automatically tilts the camera to effectively highlight where the ball is at all times. There's also some great use of color to make sure the ball and all interactive objects are easy to identify at a glance as well.
Fleeting and free
Automatoys features a dozen levels, but the first three are available for free. To unlock the full game, you can pay $2.99, but you also might get your fill off of those initial levels alone.
That was certainly the case for me. Even with quadruple the amount of levels, Automatoys isn't a terribly long or challenging experience, and the core of what makes it a fun play is right there in those first few levels.
The bottom line
Automatoys is a cool thing that is worthy of praise. It isn't earth-shattering, but it also isn't trying to be. It's a game that firmly understands what is was made for and executes that beautifully. The best part is you can go check to see if you can agree for yourself and toss a few bucks the developer's way if you're hungry for more.