We do love a good puzzle videogame here at VRFocus, something that really gets those brain cells working. Interaction is also an important part, with mechanics where you can tinker and get engrossed in whatever challenge is presented. There are some good examples for virtual reality (VR) headsets like Cubism or Gadgeteer with the latest to arrive being iNFINITE Production’s Machizzle, a puzzle title where you have to bend the laws of physics to succeed.
Machizzle is split into two modes where you can test your puzzle-solving skills with an 80-level campaign or get creative with its level builder. Naturally, the campaign offers a nice introduction to the world of Machizzle with a rather bizarre narrative that wasn’t really needed where (in comic book fashion) some guy (you) needs a healer for his dog which has just been hit around the face with a stick. Cue a walk up to a mysterious temple where a voice offers to help out – they’ve nothing else to do – all you need to do is solve the puzzles to save the pooch.
Irrelevant storyline aside, Machizzle presents a gridded tabletop much like a chessboard where you can place an assortment of blocks to control a ball. All you have to do is get said ball to the goal, shouldn’t be too hard? Much like playing with a Rubik’s Cube or Lego, it’s all about manoeuvring these various blocks by popping them in and out and spinning them around for the desired effect. Some will boost the ball, swap the gravity or teleport it, whilst others will ricochet the ball from one side of the table to the other.
What’s pleasant about the whole process is the hands-on nature of the gameplay. Each puzzle has its own particular selection of blocks to deploy, so you can just sit there and while away the hours spinning the table around until you find the best position. There’s no time limit or thumping music to make you tense, so it can be quite relaxing until that inevitable moment where one particular puzzle stumps you. The goal needs to be activated by collecting a set number of golden keys on route which inevitably causes the greatest amount of problems; it’s usually the case that an elegant solution is unravelled by spotting a wayward key.
This didn’t start to happen until about halfway through Machizzle, the first 35-40 levels whizzed by in under an hour. Up to that point, the difficulty curve was fairly flat, more like one long intro to the various puzzle elements. After the halfway point the difficulty did thankfully begin to rise for some real head-scratching moments. A hint button is available for when you’re truly stuck, but must be used cautiously as it can’t be liberally spammed. Like any puzzle title, being able to gauge how long the entire thing should last is difficult due to your own skills but Machizzle will probably last you around 3-5 hours.
Once Fido has been saved – or you get stuck again – Machizzle’s level editor is what’ll give the whole experience some longevity. This essentially gives you all the same tools as the developers to create your own diabolical puzzles which can then be freely shared with other players. With a range of board sizes and shapes, placement works in exactly the same way as the campaign, the only difference here is that you can choose what blocks the other players can utilise. There’s certainly enough variety of blocks to create some intricate puzzles yet the tabletop nature means it feels quite constrained when compared to rivals sandbox modes.
Machizzle is a perfectly likeable puzzle title for fans of the genre. While it doesn’t necessarily set itself apart when it comes to features, the gameplay is solid and perfectly suited for most players as there’s no need to worry about locomotion – there is none. If the studio can build a strong community of players then that’s where Machizzle could really shine thanks to the level editor. VR may have a strong contingent of titles in this genre but thanks to a packed solo campaign and the sandbox mode, Machizzle offers good value puzzling.