Game Review – The Machine (Maarten Baert)
October 23, 2010
The Machine‘s uninspiring title doesn’t do this fantastic physics playground enough justice. Anybody looking for some gravitationally-bound fun and even experimentation will enjoy delving into this world full of beams, ropes and springs.
By now, most of us have played a game boasting mechanics that try to emulate real-world physics one way or another. The general consensus seems to be that physics in games is cool but a bit annoying when done badly. Well fortunately, the physics in The Machine are certainly not bad; ropes swing, springs bounce, connectors connect (though I feel like there’s not enough friction because the ball takes an absolute age to slow down on a flat surface). You won’t find any colourful characters bearing smiling faces but what you will find is a rock-solid engine (the creator used his own ExtremePhysics engine), some tools and thirty brutal levels (one which is designed by Erik Leppen) which will, quite vigorously, test your ability to construct a path for a little red ball to roll to safety.
This is clearly a game for a more ‘geeky’ audience. The first level introduces things fairly simply with just beams and connectors to play around with but as you move through the game, many new tools and precarious situations are introduced and it’s your job to get things to work properly. Aside from the main levels, there is a sandbox mode. So, if you’re too clumsy to take on the almighty challenges set, feel free to mess about to your heart’s content, here. With effectively unlimited tools at your disposal, you really can take full advantage of the brilliant physics; even make some kind of machine. And it feels very right to be given this freedom in what is largely just a (very good) simulation. This puzzler was created for a competition where the theme was ‘touch-screen’ and that shows; the inteface is very click-happy (you’ll be sick of the sound of your own mouse when you’re constructing big structures) and it could certainly be played with a touch-screen, which is interesting considering recent YoYo Games-related news…
We probably shouldn’t look at The Machine from a graphical viewpoint because that’s not really what it’s about. But hey, I have a word count to meet! So, yes, it’s grey. Very grey. So grey, even your grandad may become attracted to it, although you could argue it actually fits the game as a whole because the grey UI does have a technical feeling about it. At a glance, it looks like a simulation program more than something you’re meant to have fun playing. Everything about the menu, the buttons and the layout shouts no-frills right in your face. Although, I must say I found the grittiness of the objects and walls in-game to be quite nice.
There isn’t any music, but frankly there really doesn’t need to be any. The sound effects are well implemented with every bang and smash illustrated perfectly and realistically. So, if you like physics, balls, grey, clicking and a big challenge, you’ll want to give this a try.