Review: Amazing Alex

For a colossus like Rovio, after the massive success of Angry Birds, staying in the public eye shouldn’t be an issue. They could coast on by, releasing endless new iterations of the explosively popular avian puzzler for the rest of their lives, sit back, and rake in the cash from merchandising and various system releases. But instead of sticking to the same franchise forever, they chose to branch out with in an entertaining new direction that’s noticeably different from their previous efforts, but one that still works to the degree that you’d expect from Rovio.

Amazing Alex isn’t a brand new IP, though – it’s actually a retooling of the puzzler Casey’s Contraptions, which laid the groundwork for what Rovio could wrap up in a shiny new package as Amazing Alex. Casey’s Contraptions is no longer available, but the much-improved Alex is a worthy successor to the already polished and enjoyable Rube Goldberg-inspired brain-bender. You see, there aren’t any ticked-off birds or pigs to be found here. You’re simply dealing with building materials and over 100 levels and configurations to put them in. If you’ve ever played The Incredible Machine you should have a good idea of what to expect here.

What you’ll aim to do across this massive amount of levels (with a level creator included without having to spend extra money) is arrange pipes, wooden benches, and a selection of items in order to take a specific item (perhaps a soccer ball or other spherical object) from one area to the next. Think building ramps and other complex systems meant to carry these things across short distances. Some levels are already pre-loaded with a setup you’ll need to complete, and others are much more bare, leaving things up to you to fill in. If you’re truly talented, you’ll be able to collect each of the three stars conveniently placed throughout each level as well, which grants you a higher rating and overall score.

Sifting through each challenge part, rotating the necessary objects, and even placing them is a breeze. The touch interface is quite refined, and where many games fail in this aspect, Amazing Alex does a fantastic job. It’s unfortunate then, that the game takes such a long time hitting its stride. If you’re an experienced puzzler you’ll find yourself a little frustrated when working through sixteen to twenty levels of relative hand-holding before getting to what I considered the meat of the game.

This kind of shotty difficulty extends throughout the rest of the game as well, so even when you reach what you might feel is a plateau, you’re right back to some easy as pie puzzles directly afterward. I can see this being a potential roadblock for players looking for some brain teasers the whole way through, and is certainly one of the game’s biggest faults. Luckily, the creation kit has fallen into some very creative hands, what with the audiences who have been enjoying Amazing Alex so far, so you can thumb through the plentiful levels to find a few different stages should you exhaust the 100 packed in the app.

Slick, cartoony graphics and a soothing, quirky soundtrack, coupled with Rovio’s signature charm, help make Amazing Alex a steadfast puzzler that may not replace Angry Birds, but is still a worthwhile gadget puzzler all its own if you’re looking for something else to occupy your time after coming back from space with everyone’s favorite birds.

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