I can’t even remember how my family came upon The Incredible Machine now, only that I spent many hours as a child happily fiddling about with mice, pipes, and a surprising variety of sporting balls. I’m pretty sure it was my first real encounter with a game that concentrated on a combination of physics and engineering to complete a puzzle, rather than ignorantly bouncing on an enemy, or trying to combine random items from an inventory with characters’ faces. Looking at you, rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle.
Not going to lie, I didn’t remember a lot about The Incredible Machine when I picked it out for this column. All I have are vague memories of being about seven years old, mucking about making ramps to run bowling balls down. This actually helped me to instantaneously solve the first murder in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony decades later though, impressing my wife in the process. I think all the faffing as a child may have been worth it for that alone.
Delving into longplays of The Incredible Machine on YouTube reminds me that you could alter each stage’s gravity and air pressure to mess with the physics, which I don’t remember seeing in a lot of games back then. There were loads of different convenient objects to drag into the mix too. You’d have to employ them while trying to nudge a mouse into running around on his wheel to power a treadmill, getting a ball over gaps using pulleys and rope, or setting off a sequence of revolvers to pop balloons. A perfect game for a scientifically minded little kid, basically.
I never realised there were more The Incredible Machine games after the first one, but the devs went on to make at least five more. You can pick up a multipack collecting the series on GOG for about £8/$10/€10. I’d like to find all the original big boxes for each game, line them up, and run a bowling ball along them.