I love contraptions. I have built several of my own contraptions in the past, mainly inspired by the Japanese TV show called Pythagoras Switch. To me, building contraptions is a work of science and art. It requires creativity and skills, but it’s fun to watch when it works.
My app pick for today is one about contraptions: Rube Works. Touted as the official Rube Goldberg puzzle game, the app uses the touch-based platform of the iPad to bring some of Goldberg’s best creations in a 3D animated environment.
As soon as you tap the Play text, the game takes you to a walkthrough/tutorial of how things work. This will get you familiar with the environment, navigation (such as panning and zooming), object toolbox, and hint system. It’s really important for first timers to understand how the hint system works. The hints are available for all objects in your toolbox, and other objects that are already available in the environment prior the start of each level.
When you’re ready to place an object to build the contraption, simply drag that object from the toolbox onto the screen. Some objects will snap to other objects on screen, but not all of them will. Some levels may require you to put one object on top of another.
To test your creation, simply tap the big green Test button on the top right corner of the screen. Each time your contraption works as Rube Goldberg intended, a red label (A-M) will show up on the screen. The goal is to get all the red labels in the correct order. If you can solve it the way Rube did, you will see a snapshot of Rube’s original creation along with the steps he took to construct it.
The app version that I tested comes with 9 levels, which can be unlocked one at a time. As long as you collect at least one star from the current level, you can unlock the next level. To get all three stars from a level, you need to use all the objects in the drawer. The developer has confirmed that 9 more levels will be available for free in future updates.
Parents Need to Know
Contraptions require a lot of work. There may be many trials and errors along the way. It’s great to build your junior’s determination in problem solving. The game makes this easier with the Test/Stop buttons that allows you to switch from Build mode to Test mode, and vice versa.
Rube Works requires good reading skills. If you believe your juniors are able to understand the hints provided in the system, then they’re ready to play on their own. Playing without the hints would be too difficult, even for many adults.
Things I Like
I really like how the hint system works in this game. Without it, the game would be very difficult for me to solve. A hint may come with several lines of text. The first line usually describes what the items are, and the last one usually tells you how it may work with other items.
To give you an idea of how the hint system works, here is a snippet of three objects in Level 6:
- [on screen] Warm Radiator: Ideal place for a cat nap. As long as it doesn’t get too hot.
- [in the toolbox] Sleeping Cat: He’ll sleep anywhere as long as it’s not too hot or too cold.
- [in the toolbox] Cake of Ice: Very uncomfortable to sit on, unless you’re very hot.
With these information, you’d know that the Sleeping Cat is supposed to be on top of the Warm Radiator. Then, somehow you need to make the Radiator too hot for the Cat to continue his nap, and jump on top of the Cake of Ice instead.
Rube Works is able to bring Rube Goldberg’s creations to life by adding 3D animation and a flexible, open-ended system. There are more than one way to solve a level, but you are encouraged to use all the objects as Goldberg would. Making it work the way Goldberg intended is a great inspiration of how things work and tie with each other.
After solving the first nine levels, here are some playing tips that first timers can benefit from:
- Always pay attention to the objective of each level. You can tap the Pause button to see what the objective is, anytime throughout the game.
- Tap on each objects that are already available when the level starts. Learn what they are and which objects would work with them. They provide a lot of good hints too.
- Tap on each objects in the toolbox to learn what they are and which other objects would work with them. Even though the contraptions always work from left to right, the objects in the drawer are not ordered that way. They are randomly ordered to give you a bit of a challenge.
- Strings usually work with one or more pulleys. They are used to connect one object with another object in the next step of the contraption. It’s quite unusual to use a string to connect two objects without passing through a pulley.
Rube Works is a great way to construct and play with some of Rube Goldberg’s famous contraptions. The app turns the 2D illustrated contraptions into 3D animations with sounds. It also lets you tweak the contraptions a bit. If you love contraptions, this game is a must-have.
App was provided for our honest review.