Rube Works: Rube Goldberg’s Invention Game is a brain-teasing puzzler that recalls a fondness for grade school worksheets and early interactive computer games. While the Goldberg-themed game might seem like something players have seen before, it’s really in a class of it’s own. In Rube Works, players must create innovative contraptions designed in the comedic styling of the infamous Rube Goldberg. Think you’re unfamiliar with the legendary Mr. Goldberg? Think again. An American cartoonist who lived from 1883-1970, Goldberg’s genius was behind the Three Stooges movie “Soup to Nuts”, and he was also a celebrated author, sculptor and engineer. He was most famous, however, for his cartoons. Goldberg’s humorous doodles depicted ludicrous inventions that took the most ridiculous and convoluted routes to achieve relatively simple tasks.
While the rounded, cartoonish graphics (in the style of Rube’s own political cartoons) suggest this is an exercise in ingenuity for children, the game is actually something of a challenge for adults, also. This is due to the complexity of each component in Goldberg’s equations. Players have a tub of bread dough, a circus monkey, flying rings, a release hook, a frog, disk with brackets, a slide, a pulley (and other sundry goods): using each of these items, how would you close the open window in Goldberg’s parlor? But wait: it gets better. Each component has a series of conditional variables or clues (there are about 2-3 hints per item). Each of these variables interact with other items in the scene’s modest environment (usually a small problem area, such as a driveway or a single room). The only way to get a perfect score is to use every component in Rube’s toolbox (plus the 3 pieces of string needed to connect these zany elements). A perfect score–or any score, for that matter–is represented in the form of golden prunes. Super normal, and as irreverent and individual as Rube himself.
Tutorials in Rube Goldberg’s Invention Game are well-developed and explanatory, and the first level offers a very beginner-friendly walk-through. Mouse-controlled, player’s interact with an environment that is little more than a screen’s width, but that can be manipulated to represent 180-degree views. Users double-click to read about a toolbox item via it’s pop-up dialog box, and click-and-drag an item to place it almost anywhere in the environment. Check how the lineup of elements interacts with one another by clicking the green “Test” button in the upper right-hand side of the screen; this initiates a test-run of the contraption that’s been constructed thus far. There are 18 head-scratching levels to contend with, and players who love brain teasers won’t disappointed with this Goldberg homage.
The score for this toast to Rube’s limitless imagination is more or less what you would expect: a lot of honking and wind instruments…a kazoo? The fodder of old-timey records and the earliest “Looney Toons” in memory, the music and sounds in Rube Works is apropos, and set the tone for the trial-and-error, goofy adventures. Completely fitting, and no-doubt approved by the Heirs of Rube Goldberg, this well-chosen soundtrack helped reassure me that I’m not getting dumber, this game is just delightfully absurd. (Fun side note: the inventor’s lineage, Heirs of Rube Goldberg, served as creative consultants to developers at Electric Eggplant for this official Rube Goldberg game. Meaning this game has an authentic Goldberg stamp of approval.)
Rube’s inventions are hilarious, preposterous and slapstick, but they are not simple or repetitive. I am embarrassed to say that I was stumped on a few different levels. (To be fair, how often do you use a rabbit to open a garage door? And what could you tie this rabbit to that would ensure he won’t run away at the sound of the revolver you’re given to open said garage? And what scenario in life could have prepared me for this improbable problem-solving?)
There is no penalty for retries or do-overs (thank goodness!), and if a perfect score wasn’t at first achieved, aspiring inventors can try, try again. Testing the experiment is part of the game, and clicking the green “Test” button initiates a trial run of each attempt. Items are combined using Goldberg’s user-friendly A-B-C-D format: chicken goes in spot A, bucket goes in spot B to catch the falling tears of the chicken after he sees his wife in a pie, spot C is a stumper and this review offers no freebies! You figure out where the sleeping gedunk hound goes–no one helped me!