Back when I had my first PC in 1992, I spent a lot of my free time playing many MS-DOS games. One of my favorite games at the time was The Incredible Machine. That was my first encounter with the concept of contraptions, i.e. building something complex to perform a simple task (in a cool way). I really love The Incredible Machine franchise and it always excites me to meet new friends that share the love.
My second encounter with contraptions was in 2006. I was hooked by a Japanese TV program named Phytagora Switch. Even though the program has a short duration (15 minutes), it has a lot of interesting segments. The most interesting one is, of course, the part where they perform various contraptions. The fact that these contraptions were performed by real people in real life settings had sparked my interest in contraptions again.
During the period of 2006-2007, I managed to get several friends excited about building our own real life contraptions too. We stayed up for many nights assembling our designs, and the results had always been a great satisfaction for us. It's been 5 years and I was going to forget about it, until Amazing Alex was released a few days ago.
What Amazing Alex is
Amazing Alex is a new app released by Rovio, the creator of Angry Birds franchise, featuring a young boy named Alex who loves to build contraptions. The game is a remake of Casey's Contraptions which was previously available on the App Store - before being pulled out a couple of months ago. After Rovio purchased the rights from Casey's developers, Noel Llopis of Snappy Touch and Miguel Angel Friginal of Mystery Coconut, they developed a new character and added new objects and levels to the game.
The game features more than 100 levels distributed in four different locations, i.e. the classroom, the backyard, Alex's bedroom, and the treehouse. It also features 35 interactive objects that you can use to build your contraptions to solve the challenge. Within each level, you're asked to complete an objective which can range from putting a ball into the basket, knocking down robot-shaped carton boxes to simply letting go a balloon. To solve these challenges, you're given a set of objects that you can use to build your contraptions.
You will treat each level as a canvas that you can place your contraption design in. Even though the first eight levels provide visual hints of which and where items should be placed to solve the challenge, I believe that almost all levels have different possible solutions to the challenge. As with many level-based games on iOS, you may want to revisit a level over and over again, just to get all three stars placed by the level designer.
Similar to what Casey's Contraptions has done previously, Amazing Alex also offers a way to design your own level and submit them to a website for other players to download and play with. As of the writing of this post, there have been 38,617 level designs submitted from Casey's Contraptions (since its launch last year) and 13,031 level designs submitted from Amazing Alex, including one simple design I made with my son.
How it differs from Casey's Contraptions
In addition to the new levels and interactive objects Amazing Alex offers, the app made a change in the game's main character from Casey to Alex. I'm not sure what the reasons behind the change are, but I guess Rovio is aiming a character that might be easier to be accepted worldwide. In a recent interview, Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio, mentioned what he thinks Alex's character is:
Alex is a little boy who has always a twinkle in one's eye, who loves to build all kinds of contraptions and who has a curious nature.
In less than a week since its launch, early signs of Amazing Alex's success can be seen through the big media coverage, the App Store charts and the number of user-designed levels that have been submitted. I think it's quite promising. I believe when a game (or an app) is successful, there will be more development resources deployed into it - which will eventually benefit us as its users.
Amazing Alex is a solid puzzle game. It's a game that inspires me to perform creative parenting activities in real life. The fact that my 3-year old son, Philip, also loves to design his own levels and contraptions is priceless. As what I've recently mentioned in my Toca Robot Lab review, great creative apps can really help you become a better parent.