Game Reviews


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| Apparatus
| Apparatus

Game developers know that gamers love to tinker.

We've already got more than a few games like Bithack's Apparatus on the Android Market - physics-based construction sets where you build things, from simple ramps and see-saws up to ludicrously complex Heath Robinson contraptions

It's been a popular genre ever since the original The Incredible Machine games in the 1990s, so Apparatus isn't doing anything new. But it still stands out by virtue of its polish and attention to detail.

Though the odd glitch or placeholder graphic mark it out as a work in progress (it still carries the 'public beta' tag despite being a paid app), the excellent production values, community features, and different play modes mean there's more depth to Apparatus than some full-on console releases.


The Challenge levels are the more structured part of the game. Each one comes with a pre-set arrangement of planks that you can't move, and a selection of extra pieces you can drop anywhere you like in either the foreground or background plane.

All you need to do is get a marble, or marbles, from point A to point B, but the levels are arranged so that if you don't add any of the extra pieces you'll fail.

They start out very simple, where you just need to put down one or two planks so the marble can roll over gaps in the floor, but before long you're nailing together pivots, arranging counter-weights, wiring up motors, and blocking off dead ends.

I meant it to do that

Inevitably, the first few times you hit 'start' you're left giggling helplessly as the whole thing inevitably goes horribly wrong. Apparatus is hugely entertaining to experiment with.

While the Challenge solutions are generally linear, it's just as much fun to fudge things as it is to get each level 'right'. Even when things go wrong, watching your creations tear themselves to pieces never really gets old.

The UI is fairly workmanlike, and joining pieces can be needlessly fiddly, but there's still a fantastically tactile quality to playing with Apparatus that makes you feel like you're doing something constructive.

This makes the other part of the game, the Sandbox mode, all the more appealing. You can build your own challenge levels, or just put together stupidly elaborate toys to show off.

Impressively, Bithack's system for sharing your levels with other players proves smooth, intuitive, and very, very fast, allowing you to pull down more content in a matter of seconds.

But can it play Tetris?

Apparatus lacks the flamboyance of other, similar games. It's just pieces of wood and metal bolted to a bare wooden background.

Bithack's engine is still pretty eye-catching, though, sporting some excellent texture work and effects, and despite the framerate visibly dropping when you load in someone's giant pinball machine it still remains perfectly playable.

You can even tweak multiple detail settings to try and smooth things out, and Bithack has shown an impressive dedication to updating the beta, continually fixing or adding things every few days.

Ultimately, if you're not a fan of physics sandboxes Apparatus won't do much to change your mind, but anyone else should give the demo a try as soon as possible.


Apparatus doesn't do much that's new, and still needs a little work, but it's a wonderfully polished physics construction set with depth and a feature list to rival many console releases
Matthew Lee
Matthew Lee
Matthew's been writing about games for a while, but only recently discovered the joys of Android. It's been a whirlwind romance, but between talking about smartphones, consoles, PCs and a sideline in film criticism he's had to find a way of fitting more than twenty-four hours in a day. It's called sleep deprivation.