The Incredible Machine (aka TIM) is a series of computer games that were originally designed and coded by Kevin Ryan and produced by Jeff Tunnell, the now-defunct Jeff Tunnell Productions, and published by Dynamix; the 1993 through 1995 versions had the same development team, but the later 2000–2001 titles had different designers. All versions were published by Sierra Entertainment. The entire series and intellectual property was acquired by Jeff Tunnell founded PushButton Labs in October 2009.
The general objective of the games is to create a series of Rube Goldberg devices: arrange a given collection of objects in a needlessly complex fashion so as to perform some simple task (for example, "put the ball into a box" or "light a candle"). Available objects ranged from simple ropes and pulleys to electrical generators, bowling balls, and even cats and mice, most of which had specific interactions with or reactions to other objects (for example, mice will run towards nearby cheese). The levels usually have some fixed objects that cannot be moved by the player, and so the only way to solve the puzzle is carefully arrange the given objects around the fixed items. There is also a "freeform" option that allows the user to "play" with all the objects with no set goal or to also build their own puzzles with goals for other players to attempt to solve.
Notably, the games simulated not only the physical interactions between objects, but also ambient effects like varying air pressure and gravity. The engine does not use a random number generator in its simulation of physics, assuring that the results for any given "machine" are reproducible.
The series featured the following versions:
- The Incredible Machine (1992, MS-DOS / Macintosh / 3DO)
- The Even More Incredible Machine (1993, MS-DOS / Microsoft Windows, Macintosh)
- Sid & Al's Incredible Toons (1993, MS-DOS)
- The Incredible Toon Machine (1994, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh)
- The Incredible Machine 2 (1994, MS-DOS / Macintosh)
- The Incredible Machine 3 (1995, Microsoft Windows / Macintosh)
- Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions (2000, Microsoft Windows / Macintosh)
- The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions (2001, Microsoft Windows / Macintosh)
The developers of the series have been criticized by fans for recycling content, specifically all the games after The Incredible Machine 2, rather than creating new additions to the games.
The Incredible Machine
The Incredible Machine, the first game in the series, was originally going to be developed for Electronic Arts for the Commodore 64 in 1984, but Dynamix worked on Arcticfox for the Amiga instead and work did not start on The Incredible Machine until the spring of 1993. The Even More Incredible Machine was actually an extended version of the original The Incredible Machine and had around 160 levels, about twice the number of levels in the original game, and also had quite a few more parts.
The Incredible Machine 2
The Incredible Machine 2 introduced new levels, an extended assortment of parts, a new interface, significantly improved graphics, sounds, and music, and two player hotseat play. It also improved on the "freeform" mode, allowing players to create completely playable puzzles by defining not only the participating parts, but also the set of circumstances under which the puzzle will be considered "solved". In terms of gameplay, this version provided the biggest addition to the series, while subsequent updates were basically only ports of the game to newer operating systems with updated graphics/sounds and sometimes new puzzles, but no new parts.
The Incredible Machine 3
The Incredible Machine 3, on some releases titled Professor Tim's Incredible Machines, contained the same levels as The Incredible Machine 2, but had a new interface, as well as compatibility with Windows 3.1. It also allowed the player to build backgrounds for the puzzles and to scale the playing field.
The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions
Even More Contraptions started a service allowing players to share their homemade puzzles using a service called "WonSwap", but due to the age of the game, this service is now defunct.
The Incredible Machine was the winner of several prizes due to its innovative style and simulation abilities. It was innovative enough, in fact, that Sid & Al's Incredible Toons earned Jeff Tunnell and Chris Cole a patent for the game concepts.
Some games from The Incredible Machine series are now very difficult to find, except from peer to peer networks, used software stores and online auction sites. The original publisher, Dynamix, was closed in 2001 by parent company Sierra, who was in turn scrapped in 2004 by its parent, Vivendi Universal. The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions, however, can be found via GameTap and Hoyle Puzzle Games 2005.
The Even More Incredible Machine, The Incredible Machine 3, Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions & The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions were released on GOG.com on 1 October 2009 as The Incredible Machine Mega Pack. 
- Similar video games
- Armadillo Run, a similar game which focuses on physics
- Chain Reaction, same creators, same idea, but in 3D
- Crayon Physics, same concept, but with drawn parts
- Crazy Machines and its sequel, Crazy Machines 2
- Fantastic Contraption, similar concept with fewer tools (website)
- Widget Workshop
- World of Goo, 2D physics game about structures out of goo
- Mechanic Master, for the Nintendo DS
- Phun (2D Physics Sandbox), a powerful 2D physics sandbox (website)
- Algodoo, a powerful 2D physics sandbox developed from Phun (2D Physics Sandbox) (website)
- Garry's mod, 3D physics sandbox that uses valve's source engine.
- Bubble Ghost, a 2D physics sandbox involving manipulating a floating ghost to interact with its environment.
- ↑ http://pushbuttonlabs.com/2009/10/welcome-home-the-incredible-machine/
- ↑ Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (May 1993). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (193): 57–63.
- ↑ http://forums.vgames.com/ann.jspa?annID=332
- ↑ Tunnell, Jeffrey A.; Cole, Christopher M. (1994-11-10). United States Patent 5,577,185: Computerized puzzle gaming method and apparatus. United States Patent & Trademark Office. Retrieved on 2007-09-11
- ↑ Listed in the Help -> About section of the game.
- ↑ http://www.vgmobile.com/games/incredible.html
- ↑ Carless, Simon (2006-08-31). Vivendi Reveals Double Fine Deal, Crash Online, Incredible Machine For XBLA. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2007-09-11