main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Video Game: The Incredible Machine

"Roll the baseball down the ramp that triggers the boxing glove that pushes the bowling ball that strikes the teeter-totter that launches the tennis ball that bounces off the trampoline and powers the bellows to fan the mill to crank the gears to spring the toy that sends the basketball down the drain pipe off the pinball bumper flipping on the beam that travels through the glass that lights the fuse that fires the cannon! Welcome to the Incredible Machine..."

A Puzzle Game published by Sierra Online in 1992, The Incredible Machine (AKA "TIM") centers around the construction of Rube Goldberg Devices. The player is provided with a predetermined set of parts to use in order to achieve the given objective. There are over 100 puzzles to complete, each of varying difficulty, but custom puzzles and machines can also be made (with full access to all the parts in the game). Many parts are available, ranging from the simple (gears and ropes) to the downright bizarre (alligators and blimps).

The game's family-friendly quality and subtle moments of humor and satisfaction led to widespread popularity. Over the course of nine years, seven more titles were released, and the series has since been a recipient of several awards.

For the more modern variant, see Crazy Machines. It's also receiving a Spiritual Successor from the team that worked on the original game, called Contraption Maker.

The Incredible Machine contains the following tropes:

  • Artistic License - Physics: Despite being a physics game, fundamental laws are broken right and left.
    • The Super Ball of TIM2 somehow gains momentum with each bounce, in blatant defiance of real-world physics. In fact, it's so bouncy that the ball will take to the air, even if you set it precisely on top of a flat surface. It can't even be Hand Waved as being made of some sort of Unobtanium; if you take a customizable ball and simply set its Elasticity to maximum, leaving all other properties alone, it too will gain momentum with each bounce. Needless to say, nothing can generate momentum on its own simply by being super-elastic.
  • A Winner Is You: For completing all puzzles in a difficulty tier in TIM2, your reward is a window with a congratulations message from Professor Tim. For completing all the difficulty tiers, your reward is a window with a congratulations message from Professor Tim.
  • Booby Trap: The Trap Door, introduced in TIM2. If any object with a mass greater than 5note  lands on the trap door, no matter how gently, the door will fall open. Conversely, any object lighter than this can never trigger the trap door, no matter how high it drops from.
  • Butt Monkey: Mel Schlemming.
  • Cosmic Plaything: The game's resident mindless mini-human, Mel Schlemming.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: A notable example occurs in Even More Contraptions, where the player is forced to goad a mouse out of its home using cheese in order to feed the mouse to an alligator.
  • Depth Perplexion:
    • Take a bucket, tie it to an anchor, and put the bucket level with the anchor so that it'll swing in an arc. Place hedge trimmers so that the bucket swings just under them, and notice how the rope just passes through the trimmers completely. Now drop a ball on the hedge trimmers right as the rope passes through; the rope somehow gets snipped.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a machine, and it's incredible.
  • Excuse Plot: In Even More Contraptions, earning a Doctorate of Contrapology.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Averted. Introduced in TIM2, Laser Guns fire one-pixel-wide beams of light. The beam travels from the gun to its destination in one frame (i.e. as close to the speed of light that the game can simulate). If the beam is cut off by an object passing through, the beam past that point disappears immediately; when the blockage is removed, it reappears just as quickly. Laser beams also have no knockback, since they are made of light.
  • Hair Trigger Explosive: TIM2 introduces Nitroglycerin Vials, erroneously depicted here as a low explosive, as opposed to a high explosive. This can be demonstrated by dropping a vial on a Blimp, which has a different "destroyed" animation depending on whether it came in contact with sharp objects or fire. Nitroglycerin, being a high explosive, should destroy the blimp with sharpness (a combination of flying glass shards and droplets moving faster than the speed of sound). Instead, nitroglycerin burns the blimp.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Lots in TIM2.
    • When lighting fuses, only the tip can be ignited by open flames.
    • When blimps are dealing with obstacles that aren't vertical walls, expect these little dirigibles to change direction seemingly at random.
      • This is exacerbated in Return of the Incredible Machine; the new graphic for the blimp is more slender, but it retains the same hitbox as the previous fat model. As a result, there's a considerable amount of empty space beneath the blimp which will cause the blimp to react if crossed.
    • With the remote-control explosives, only the dynamite and TNT barrel are tangible.
    • You can set a pool ball on top of the tip of a cue stick, and set the cue stick off. The pool ball will not react.
  • Made of Iron: The small human character can withstand just about anything aside from being eaten.
    • Falling too far will knock him out, though. (Either that or trigger the character's latent narcolepsy, since it's represented as "falling asleep".)
  • Man on Fire: Averted. Open flames won't burn anything that isn't specifically designed to react to fire, which is to be expected, since being able to set Mel on fire wouldn't be very family-friendly.
  • MST3K Mantra: invoked One of the song lyrics of the track "Steel Drums" suggests that you:
    "Wipe that puzzled look off your face. It's just a game, mon!"
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Pictures At An Exhibition is one of the recurring soundtrack songs.
  • Ray Gun: The Toy Phazer from TIM2 shoots pulses of energy... which can set things on fire. Pretty dangerous for a toy!
  • Reflecting Laser: Strategically-placed compact mirrors can redirect laser beams.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: In TIM2, when Edison Alligator chows down on a mini-human or a mouse, he'll look at the camera and snicker, implying he only ate them For the Evulz.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: the entire idea behind the game.
  • Selective Gravity: Generally speaking, objects can be classified into those that are fixed in place (conveyors, seesaws, etc.) and those that aren't (balls, animals, etc.). The pool balls in particular are exempt from gravity altogether, and air pressure determines which objects fall and which objects float in midair.
  • Spiritual Successor: 2006's Crazy Machines.
    • A truer successor is 2013's Contraption Maker, as it's made by the original Incredible Machine team.
  • Stock Scream: Mel when he falls off stuff.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Easily caused by vials of nitroglycerin, where even a fan blowing air against it can set it off. Blimps will explode if shot by the phazer gun (but not the cannon or laser), or if it comes into contact with flame. There's also dynamite, which will exlode if shot by the phazer gun or if its fuse is lit.
  • Units Not to Scale:
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Feeding Mel to the Alligator, feeding the cat the mouse, breaking the fish tank.
  • Vocal Dissonance: The mandrill's yawn in Even More Contraptions is unexpectedly loud and deep.
  • The Voice: Professor Tim.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: The Build Contraptions option.

The Adventures Of Willy BeamishCreator/DynamixTribes
The Impossible QuizPuzzle GameIntelligent Qube
Press X to DieImageSource/Video GamesInconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt
I Have No Mouth and I Must ScreamApple MacintoshIndiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures
IL-2 SturmovikWebsite/GOG.comIndependence War 2

alternative title(s): The Incredible Machine
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy