Official Rube Goldberg invention game comes to iOS

If you like building crazy contraptions, you'll love this app.

What do you use to carve a turkey, a knife? In Rube Works, you'll need to finish assembling a machine that can carve it for you. And then build eight other wacky machines.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

For years, various computer games and mobile apps have attempted to capture the essence of constructing Rube Goldberg-style puzzles -- complex contraptions designed to perform simple tasks. The Incredible Machine was perhaps the most famous, and the similar Crazy Machines debuted for iOS more than four years ago.

Now comes an "official" game approved by the Rube Goldberg estate: Unity Games' Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game. It's available now for iOS and soon for Android.

Never heard of Rube Goldberg? Here's arguably the best-ever real-world example of one of his puzzles.

In Rube Works, it's up to you to assemble the pieces to accomplish a particular goal: squeezing an orange, carving a turkey, and so on. In each puzzle you're provided a different set of wacky items to work with, anything from a bucket to a block of ice to a magnifying glass.

The first puzzle serves as a tutorial, effectively introducing you to the game's mechanics, but from there it's up to you. Thankfully, you can tap any item in your toolbox to find out what it does and get hints on using it, which is helpful in figuring out just how, say, a super-absorbent sponge and an "overheated penguin from the South Pole" might be employed to create a turkey-carving machine.

Unlike Crazy Machines and most other games like it, Rube Works has a decidedly 3D look. It's colorful, cartoonish, and very whimsical, much like the comic strip that started it all. A peppy, old-timey soundtrack accompanies the action.

Unfortunately, the game comes with just nine puzzles, though three more are "coming soon," according to the level selector. (Update: According to a company rep, there will be nine additional levels in a forthcoming update.) I can't say how long it will take you to solve each puzzle, but the aforementioned Crazy Machines comes with 50 levels for a dollar less.

Even so, $2.99 isn't outrageous for a game as inventive and entertaining as this one. If you like puzzles, especially Rube Goldberg-style puzzles, you'll definitely want to check Rube Works.