It's been a long time since the days of Sierra On-Line and the release of The Incredible Machine. The first game hit in 1993 and has since branched off into a few proper sequels, puzzle pack expansions, mobile releases, and countless numbers of unofficial offshoots and imitators. The release of Contraption Maker marks a return of the real deal, complete with some of the original team members in tow!
Contraption Maker is a reboot of the Incredible Machine series polished up for a new generation. It's an official game because it was made by some of the same people who worked on the first one back in the '90s. Programmer and designer Jeff Tunnell (one of those people) purchased the rights to The Incredible Machine in 2009, then went on to form Spotkin and start work on Contraption Maker.
Contraption Maker doesn't veer from its predecessor's layout all that much. You've still got a bunch of seemingly random parts in your inventory along with a nonsensical objective that can be accomplished by piecing together those parts. Hamsters power generators in this universe, but only if you bump their cage to get them running. Floating ray guns can blast blimps out of the air, but only if you tie a rope to their triggers, run the rope around a few pulleys, and find a way to give it a good firm tug. Contraption Maker encourages creativity and imagination, and you'll need a whole lot of each to power through the game's 140 official puzzles.
Contraption Maker uses a simple point and click interface anybody with a mouse can figure out how to use. Drag items from the inventory and place them on the board. If they can connect with other objects, small icons will light up to show you exactly where. Attaching bands to machines, for example, is a simple matter of dragging each piece to a hook, no fuss. Items that can be rotated or moved will have corresponding icons hovering around their selection box. And if you have no idea what that green thing does, help is just a click away.
You start off with a handful of tutorial levels that warm you to the idea of dropping bowling balls into buckets. You're free to play the stages in any order, as Contraption Maker doesn't include any kind of campaign or story mode. It's just puzzles, through and through, because honestly, what else would you want? Later levels get more complex by increasing the number of parts and throwing things like programmable part creators and laser extenders into the mix. The goals are usually about the same, but boy is it tougher to figure out what goes where.