Da Vinci's Secret Machines is one of those contraption-based puzzle games
that can trace its roots back to The Incredible Machine on the PC. The
idea behind these types of games is relatively simple; you're given a number of
objects with which to construct a Rube Goldberg style machine to accomplish a
very simple task. In the case of Da Vinci's Secret Machines that task is
to get a ball placed somewhere on the screen into a basket placed somewhere else
on the screen. You take the various balls (balls range from small and
bouncy to big and heavy), planks, belts, fans, and other various things provided
to you on a level and then touch drag them onto the screen to put them into
place. Once you're satisfied with your work you push the play button and
physics takes over. If the ball makes its way into the basket you complete
the puzzle and are scored on how quickly you were able to solve it - online
leaderboards are supported through Openfeint if you want to compare your scores
to that of others. If the ball gets stuck somewhere, you can either make a
few tweaks to your layout or scrap the whole thing and try again from scratch.
The Da Vinci theme comes into play in the backgrounds of the puzzles, the
script fonts, and Da Vinci facts displayed between levels. However the
puzzles themselves are in no particular way Da Vincian. After all, Da
Vinci never dream up the electric fan, let alone had one lying around the
workshop to us to play automated basketball.
I enjoy contraption type games, but I have to rate the puzzles in Secret
Machines as being on the easy side - which is probably why they are timed.
The touch drag detection is too insensitive in the game, though, doubly so in
timed puzzles. Sometimes I had to tap an object several times to select it
and at others I'd be dragging it along only to find that it had dropped before I
wanted it to. Once placed, objects have to be tap selected again to rotate them,
so in most puzzles I spent more time trying to get things to where I wanted them
than I did thinking about the puzzles' solutions. Lastly, the game is on
the short side, and I imagine it would feel even shorter if I could have dragged
everything into place faster.
In spite of these problems, I still found it fun to finally push the play
button and see how my creations played out. I tend to find it funny when
things go in an entirely different direction than intended, and there's a great
sense of satisfaction when things go perfectly on the first try. So, in
short, this game is recommendable to those who can deal with a little
frustration from the controls, who enjoy or are curious about contraption puzzle
games but aren't looking for a difficult challenge.
Final Rating: 79%