Rube Goldberg machines are cool. You string seemingly unrelated objects together to transfer energy and complete a task. And games that ask players to use physics principles to solve puzzles are perfect for the format. So it’s no surprise to find Rube Works in the spotlight. I picked up the game looking forward to a realistic-enough Rube Goldberg system (a la the Incredible Machine). Imagine my disappointment when what I got was something resembling a level-based physics puzzler with unnecessarily goofy machine components and a random, directionless set of tasks.
So here’s how the game is actually played: You’re told at the beginning of each level that you need to solve a very specific (and often very frivolous) puzzle using the finite selection of “tools” you’re given for the level. You solve each level by discovering the relationship between these tools and thus putting them together to make a Rube Goldberg machine. Unfortunately the interrelationship between the tools is too often random to the point of abstraction. A particularly annoying example is from the level in which you’re asked to place a rooster next to a plate of steaming chicken salad. You aren’t sure what the point of that is at first glance, but you find out that the rooster cries when seeing his deceased friend used for chicken salad. His tears are then collected by a sponge in the machine, which in turn weighs down a scale, which in turn pulls a string, and so on.
Alongside the out-of-nowhere, pretty-much-always random machine components, you have objects like strings and fan belts at your disposal to connect to the device. You click and drag components to the screen and connect them with string in order to achieve the end goal (such as squeezing a glass of orange juice, slicing a turkey, etc). If that were the whole game, I’d have thrown the game right out in frustration. It’s ridiculously confusing because most of the machine parts aren’t grounded enough in reality for me to figure out how they work. I mean, come on! How was I supposed to know the rooster’s purpose was to cry?
Luckily, tapping on objects (both in your toolbox and on the screen) queues up some hints that let you know what each object will do. You’re also given ample opportunities to test the machine by letting it run, which allows you to figure out where the kinks are. So at least the game doesn’t simply leave you with a rooster, a penguin and a sand dispenser, and a hearty good luck pat on the back. The game gives you hints and plenty of them.
That’s pretty much the gist of the game. The level-to-level experience felt a little off, the graphics were really clunky, and the corny boom-chick, Danny Elfman-esque sounds didn’t do it for me.
I remember days in school computer class playing Rube-style puzzle games and this one just didn’t have the same eloquence. The point of these types of physics games is to exercise your brain. But in this case, the fantastical “machine parts” (ranging from a wall-mounted sand dispenser to a goofy little dragon creature), didn’t offer me any real-world applications to latch onto. I pretty much just did what the hints told me to do and fumbled my way to a not-so-satisfying victory.
I went back and forth several times on whether I liked the game or hated it. The in-level challenges brought me to numerous moments when I screamed in frustration. Sometimes it was because the objects wouldn’t go where I wanted them to. Other times that frustration was because I had no idea what the darn object was (often because of the poor graphics). That said, there’s nothing like getting to an achievement screen. Much like Angry Birds, you get some satisfaction when you get achievements and awards for solving puzzles with 1, 2 or 3 stars, depending on how efficiently your machine completes the task.
But by the time I was at the 7th or 8th level, I was done. Rube Works is a puzzle game filled with puzzles that are so randomly oriented that they are nearly unsolvable. Call me crazy, but if I wanted to really exercise my brain, I’d read or take a class or play a puzzle game that works (and is fun). Someone might find this game a nice break from the usual games, but for me it just didn’t cut it. The graphics were crappy and the sound effects were worse. It just didn’t feel as put-together as it should have—even as I beat levels. All in all, my advice for you is to save your money for a better puzzler.
A puzzling puzzler with some of the most unsolvable puzzles you’re likely to find in a real-world physics game.