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The Machine – A unique, challenging and visually stylish puzzle game, is a must have for Windows Phone

The Machine is a new game for Windows Phone 7.x and 8 that should make many diehard players quite pleased. The game, developed by IĮ Farstall, comes from the highly regarded AppCampus project, a joint venture between Microsoft, Nokia and Aalto University (see example titles here (opens in new tab)). That means you can expect a decidedly polished, visually exquisite title that is unique (and exclusive) to Windows Phone.

The Machine delivers in every aspect.

We’ve had a chance to play with The Machine over the weekend and have to give it a huge thumbs up. For one, it’s free (with some minor ads), which makes it a no brainer for adding to your collection. Number two, we love the visual design of the game, which relies on a monochrome, with bold and eye catching lines.

The game itself is an action-puzzler with a touch of physics. You control a blob of ink and by tapping on the screen, trying to weave the dark splotch through ‘the Machine’ to the end. The game has two modes: arcade and campaign (30 levels). The first, arcade, is described as an “endless climb” where your goal is to simply get a high score by getting your globule up as high as you can. It’s perfect for that on-the-go, quick gameplay. The second option, campaign, is similar to Angry Birds where you have various challenges throughout 30 different levels. You race against time and how much ink you use (or don’t), resulting in a higher score.

It also has some killer electro music (see the accompanying game trailer to see it all in action!)

The game starts off unassuming, but we have to admit—it gets difficult real fast. In that sense, this isn’t like your typical physics-puzzler, as this ramps up complications very quickly, resulting in a somewhat maddening gaming experience. That’s not a bad thing, it just means to get ready for some serious challenges and lots of tapping of the ‘replay’ function.

The Machine is probably one of the most distinctive and visually gorgeous action-puzzles we’ve come across. It has an impeccable design and offers dedicated gamers a fun—but difficult—challenge. For that, we have to highly recommend that you give it a try.

The Machine is a solid example of the AppCampus Project, joining the ranks of SongArc, Fling Theory, Harsh Quad, Singster and TAWKABLE. For more information on AppCampus, make sure you read our earlier reporting behind-the-scenes of the project.

Pick up The Machine here in the Store. For Windows Phone 7.x and 8. Free.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • My first on first... I love puzzle
  • Lol
  • Die in the first try
  • You might've played the arcade mode first, like I did. I died 10 times before I figured out what "character" I was and how to jump. It didn't help having saws all over me in seconds. Playing the main game does ease you into it, but gets ridiculously hard very soon - I replayed level 4 maybe 30-40 times!
  • At least "die in the first try" is a achievement... Yep it getting harder...
  • Sounds like instant Gamer Rage to me. I start yelling at things if I have to retry once. 
  • A must grab. Love the whimsical puzzle game.
  • Wow, also for WP7. Nice to see.
  • This looks like the old Windows computer game series "The Incredible Machine". Loved that game!
  • That game ruled. I specifically came to comments before downloading to see if anyone compared it to that game.
  • I think this game is more like Super Meat Boy than anything else, in terms of gameplay
  • Very nice, with a decided Limbo like vibe, right down to the menacing saw blade.
  • Looks good, downloading!
  • Will give it a try and then will start liking the game and then will start recommending to my friends in my circle and then will showoff.. :P
  • If they like Super Meat Boy then they'll like it :P
  • Sides of stage with the saws underneath. SOMEONE GREENLIGHT THIS! Yeah, it resembles the Steam logo, so...
  • Just play Super Meat Boy on steam ;)
  • Cool, downloading now. Whatever happened to that morbid platformer that George Ponder, I think, was showing off in videos?
  • Fun but weird name and "character" for a game... Why would a game named "The Machine" have you play as a jumping ink blob? Stupid concept, but good game play so who cares I guess...
  • I'd suggest it's a blob of oil as in "the oil in the Machine", rather than ink.
    Unless it's specifically described as ink in-game.
  • i played the game. its ink. i guess the idea is no more stupid than birds that smash things.
    Again good game play, very cool style and sweet music. Just a stupid "story".
  • I actually really like the name The Machine, but yeah, it would make more sense if it were oil instead of ink.
  • Wow.. addictive. Definitely a must download..
  • Good article but I miss the game reviews by Paul Acevedo. Seems like its been a while since his last one.
  • This is more of announcement than a review as the game just came out today ;)
  • Looks like "Sound Shapes" on PSN
  • Sigh. These are the types of games that should have Xbox branding. Seems very stylish and unique. Damn, wish it came with Xbox achievements. I love puzzle games. Also, it would've been very cool if the blob grew in size as he collected more oil droplets. That could've affected game play,a bigger blob being harder to maneuver around dangers, but stylistically it would've looked sweet too.
  • No achievements so it will be very far down on my to play list.  Might check it out sometime if I'm looking to kill a few minutes.
  • Looks cool, but requires location services and access to my media library?!? No way.
  • Ads brah, that's how they work. For the record, there has never been a malicious app found on Windows Phone yet.
  • Have you ever downloaded anything on your phone before?  I've yet to run into a single download ever that didn't require location services.  They probably exist but they'd be the exception not the norm.
  • Hi, developer here. As mentioned before by Daniel - Ads require location services. Media library is used to get access to the music player, without music player WP game cannot play any music. The game certainly does not access your personal music library or any other personal information.
  • After playing around with the game for awhile, I think it’s an interesting game with a great art design that has the potential to be an Xbox-certified game with a few improvements.
    1. Controls: right now the game is too difficult because it’s hard to make the blob go exactly where I want him to go with the current tap controls, which conflate what should be two separate controls: angle and distance. I have 3 possible alternatives:
    a. It would suggest adopting control similar to Flight Control in which you can trace the path that you want the blob to go.
    b. Or, you could adopt a control scheme similar Angry Birds in which you can flick your finger and the angle and speed of the flick determines the distance and trajectory.
    c. I would add a mid-air jump option in which you can tap or flick the screen again after the blob is already airborne so as to more precisely control where the blob lands (i.e., you can use this mid-air jump to slow him down so he doesn’t jump as far or give him more power so he can jump a little bit farther. 2. Practice mode: I would suggest adding a practice mode, similar to the Zen mode of Fruit Ninja in which we could practice the game mechanics in a more open world where it’s impossible to die. 3. Ease the difficulty: Right now it’s too easy to die, and when you die, you have to start the entire level over. You can make this easier in one of two ways (or both!)
    a. Add check points: similar to Sonic the Hedgehog, if you pass a certain checkpoint and die, you can restart from there.
    b. Add a power-up: similar to Mario Bros. instead of having collected ink droplets fill up an ink meter, you should have them make the blob bigger. This would look cool (seeing the blob grow as he collects ink would be fun), and it can also change the game in the sense of making him like Super Mario (i.e., Mario who ate a mushroom becomes big, but when he hits an enemy he doesn’t die; instead he goes back to smaller Mario) in the sense that if the bigger blob hits a saw or spikes, he loses some ink and returns to a smaller blob instead of completely dying. 4. Xbox integration: I know the Xbox certification process is a nuisance, but I think this game, with some of the revisions above, is good enough to be an Xbox title. I’d gladly pay money for this game if it had Xbox integration and no advertisements.
  • First of all thank you for very constructive and informative feedback, we really appreciate it. 1. We considered lots of options and decided the best one is a simple tap. It's not as precise, but it allows more speed and reaction based play. This game is designed for tap control and if it doesn't feel this way now, by level 10 you should have a feeling that taping is the best way of control. There is actually a power up later in the game witch allows to change direction in mid air. 2. Good idea! We will consider it. 3. Our main inspiration was games like "Super Meat Boy" which implements the idea of "die 100 times to finish short level". So this game mostly aimed at players who like difficulty and challenges. We appreciate that despite the hard game-play we still get positive feedback. a) Levels are actually very short (usually less than 1 minute to complete) but difficulty allows replayability and prolongs game-play, checkpoints would ruin that. Unfortunately it also requires a lot of patience and determination. b) Also interesting idea, thanks. 4. We may try to implement this in upcoming patches. We try to read every comment and consider any feedback so your comment is very helpful!
  • Thank you for the response. I understand that you tried out a lot of different control techniques and I agree that the tap control scheme allows for faster gameplay. Perhaps by adding a 'mid-air jump' option (i.e., the ability to tap again after the blob has already jumped so we can more precisely control where he lands), coupled with a practice mode (so we can try out the controls more and get used to them) would probably help a lot. And I do like the idea of a blob that grows in size as he collects ink acting as an extra life, so to speak, like Super Mario. It would also be aesthetically appealing to see him grow larger and shrink down when he hits an obstacle. Looking forward to an update. Great game! 
  • The more I play this game the more strongly I feel that there needs to be a 'mid-air jump' / double jump adjustment option added to the control scheme. You should be able to tap to jump but then tap again mid-jump to further adjust the direction. This ability to slightly tweak the blob's movement would really open the game up and ease the difficulty (and make it more fun). Because right now once you jump, that's it. You can't do anything about it even if you see that it will result in your demise. But adding in the minor ability to tweak your landing would mitigate that issue.
  • As mentioned before - there is already a power-up later in the game which lets the player to execute midair jump. That said, we really appreciate and listen to constructive feedback we are getting. We were discussing new features and big changes already, but it may take a while until the new big release is ready. Again - thank You.
  • ha ha, I don't think I'll be able to advance in the game far enough to get to that powerup, so in a future update if it became a part of the core gameplay (which should be easy to do if if is already implemented later in the game) that would really help. That said, the game really is fantastic. We gamers on here are offering critiques and suggestions not because the game is bad but because it's good and we see it as having even more potential. Great job all around, thanks for your respones, and I look forward to trying out future updates.
  • Downloaded and it made me RAGE! ";...;"
    Arcade , First try , Died in 5 secs. Second try Died again in 7 secs.. and.. History repeats itself until 15th try. Woo! Raging!
  • Play the normal mode... Arcade only makes sense after you've played a bit before. Still a very frustrating game.
  • Hi, developer here. The game becomes frustrating if You just want to relax and to complete several levels in a short period of time.
    Levels were designed with the idea that the skills of player will be improving with each death (our level designer was playing a lot of Darsouls :) ) and this works - after beating level 10+ You can try to play 4th and 5th levels and You will see how much easier you will complete them.
    We completely agree - game is hard and some people will get enraged, but our hope is that the game will find a niche with players who loves challenges.
    Also we plan to add warning for players not to go to the arcade before playing some levels (Thanks for feedback).
  • First, thank you for this game. It looks beautiful and is very creative. 
    To add my voice, this is a very difficult game. Challenging can be engaging...or enraging. I like challenging games, but I'm afraid this one falls on the side of enraging. Game difficulty does ramp up quickly...but I think the real dilema is with the controls. Though they can be explained simply, the controls are still unpredictable and unintuitive - Direction off of wheel is always tangent while off of wall depends on touch point. - I click in the top screen corners when I want to jump 45 degrees. My mind KNOWs it's less like 30...but I can't get my fingers to cooperate. - The above especially gets me into trouble when I'm on the edge of the level. The ink is no longer centered on the screen, so my edge-of-the-screen touch points change.   - The ink blob drops pretty fast. I guess that's physics, but it throws me off, especially when jumping off of a wheel. - No control of jump power. This is fine, but can get you into a tough spot when you just need to scoot over a litle. Get's frustrating.  Suggestions: Jumping guides (one of the following): - Cirlce with indicators around the ink blob.  User taps part of the circle to tell the blog to jump in that direction. Circle disapears when blob is in motion, and when on a wheel is replaced with one jump option - Circle with indicators in the corner of the screen, like a joy stick. Changes to single button when blob is on a wheel. - Indicate touchpoints on edges of the screen that are associated with jumping in a certain direction. - Have user swipe the blob to make them jump a certain direction. Other movement: - User can roll or nudge the blob. Uses up ink. - Double jump ability - Give jump a little more *oomf* to it. - Way points to save in level progress. You can't get 3 "stars" if you use it - Instead of instant death one spikes/blades, lose lots of ink and get bounced backward. Great game, but something needs to be changed to make this more apealing. Agin, goal is to have challenging and ENGAGING, not ENRAGING.
  • For some reason I can't find this game if I search in the store. I've had to use the link above to the US site which then referred me to the UK site. Then it wouldn't install anyway. Now I'm waiting for an email. It had better be good after all this.
  • For some reason the game is not showing up in the "New" games list and is really hard to find. You should be able to find it in the marketplace using search term "The Machine" (with quotation marks).
  • It usually takes some time for it to show up in the store searches. That said, I've already seen The Machine featured on the Windows Phone Apps Spotlight home page.
  • Loved the game. Awesome. Layout is cool n fun to play. Thanks to developer n his innovative idea.
  • I see the game just got an update, but it seems like a very minor one. Probably just bug fixes. Looking forward to future updates with possible tweaks to the controls.
  • Farstall Games, please, publish this game in the Russian Windows Phone store. You can obtain PEGI certificate from free online service:
  • Hi,
    It's already in our plans, the next patch (1.0.3) will be released in Russia.
  • Thank you!
  • As of today the game is in the Russian marketplace.
  • FYI, still playing this game in arcade (haven't quite finished the "campaign" yet). Still fun. Any chance of adding wheels that turn in the opposite direction? If they're in here, I haven't found them yet. But this would add a nice layer of interest.
  • We are really happy that You still enjoying the game. Circles turning in the opposite direction are a great idea! In fact we are currently working on big changes to the arcade and we will definitely add it to the to-do list. If You find campaigning too difficult, You should know that we planning to release a new and easier alternative campaigning. It's a lot of changes so it will take a while. Have fun!