Before we get into the review for Rube Works, a bit of history is in order. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist and the inventor of the Rube Goldberg Machine, used very often in cartoons and other forms of media, including Tom and Jerry, Dexter’s Laboratory, Back to the Future, and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. It’s difficult to explain, but a Rube Goldberg Machine is essentially an invention made to solve a simple task (turn on a light bulb) through a series of complicated steps based on cause-and-effect (a bowling ball falls into a basket, pulling up a piece of cheese in front of a mouse in a wheel that makes the mouse run, and powers on the lightbulb). Rube Works is a game developed by Electric Eggplant and Kalani Games that gives players the tools needed to create some interesting and hilarious Rube Goldberg Machines.
Each level starts with a simple need to fulfill, such as waking up with a fresh glass of orange juice, or turning on the heat without having to stand up. They are then given several strange and unlikely items to use in the creation of the machine, such as a laughing hyena, an octopus, seesaws, and several pulley systems. Each of the 18 levels is completely different from the other with respect to what and how different items are used and what they are for. As a nod to Rube Goldberg himself, Rube Works uses the original Rube Goldberg cartoons for the first twelve levels, and offers several bits of trivia and knowledge about Rube’s creations and career.
The game follows the original cartoon feel and silly atmosphere from the illustrations. The visual movements that occur as players test their inventions are also entertaining, along with the wacky sound effects that they provide. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a soundtrack except for a simple old-timey song that plays in the menu, and between levels. The levels themselves, however, are mostly silent except for the sounds of the environment, like rain or wind.
The game follows the short and strange inventions that Professor Butts tested on a simple man named George, both of whom are characters created by Rube Goldberg in the past cartoons. There isn’t much need for an in-depth story regarding these two characters, so nothing seems to be off or missing. I mostly thought of it like I was watching a Saturday morning cartoon that just stood on it’s own and wasn’t meant to have a cohesive storyline.
Rube Works is a fun game to play, but also can’t seem to find a balance between being very challenging and a bit too easy. Maybe this game wasn’t meant for someone my age, but I couldn’t see much relation between a laughing hyena and watering my grass until I looked at the hints. The game still offers some challenges though, and because of the hints it is easy to understand and get used to. It’s especially great for young children and students, since it develops the ability to think outside the box and to try different combinations and experiment with their results.
Rube Works exists for several platforms, including smartphone and tablet devices across iOS and Android, but has only recently been made available for PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam. Rube Works can be purchased for the retail price of $4.99, which fits pretty well with the amount of time it takes to play the game, and the amount of enjoyment that everyone can get out of it.