Android Central

Rovio broke out of their Angry Birds shell today with a game called Amazing Alex. Once upon a time it was known as Casey's Contraptions, until Rovio gobbled up the developer, chewed on it for a few months, and spat out this physics title for Android and iOS. 

Anyone that had played The Incredible Machine back in the day will know the drill. Every level, players are given a simple objective, like knocking over a pile of books, or getting a bowling ball into a basket. Various obstacles are already in place, and players are provided with a limited toolbox of extras to build a Rube Goldberg-style machine and achieve the objective. The main appeal is that all of those objects act as you would expect - scissors close when touched, billiard balls bounce less than tennis balls, balloons float, and so on. The three stars in every level act as secondary objectives, which players can earn by knocking objects into them. 

Gameplay

Amazing Alex really is a lot of fun to play. The first couple of levels are easy, but eventually the difficulty ramps up and players find themselves trying all sorts of unexpected combinations to beat a stage. Replayability on the stock 100 levels are limited once you solve them, even if it takes a few different tricks to three-star them.

Amazing Alex.

The real kicker is that Amazing Alex has an online repository of player-submitted levels, which not only means players have plenty of levels to gnaw through, but that there's plenty of time to be spent cooking up clever puzzles. Some kind of rating system would go a long way to finding the high-quality user-submitted levels, but as is, Rovio has a featured section showing off one of their personal favorites at any given time. New objects are unlocked in the level editor every time a player beats one of the four chapters, and some are only granted if every level is three-starred. 

Style

Amazing Alex.

While the gameplay is great, there are a few things to knock about the style of Amazing Alex. Don't get me wrong, the graphics are polished and animations smooth, but this kid isn't a compelling main character for how much spotlight he gets. Birds that know only suicidal rage and vengeance is something I can get behind, but Alex? I can only relate to him in the most generic Dennis the Menace kind of way. Maybe having his goofy mug pop up after three-starring a level really inspires tweens to throw a freeze-frameable fist in the air, but not me. The Disney-esque happy-go-lucky soundtrack doesn't help much either. Besides that, why is Alex's face the app icon and not a bowling ball in a bucket tied to a balloon, or something equally wacky and related to the actual gameplay? Your mileage may vary, of course - juvenile rascals have their charm to some folks. The comic strips that intersperse each chapter have their moments. 

My other complaint about the Amazing Alex's style is that it lacks originality. The gameplay is still solid, but very little has changed from Casey's Contraptions, or The Incredible Machine for that matter. Rovio is a master of milking old ideas though, and if they can apply the same formula as Angry Birds to this new franchise, Amazing Alex stands to be a commercial (if not creative) success. That said, get used to seeing ads for Angry Birds games on the pause screen. Just because you might be used to it by now doesn't make it a good thing. 

The good

  • Fun, classic physics gameplay
  • Crowd-sourced level selection offers wide replayability

The bad

  • Annoying main character
  • Limited originality 

Conclusion

The sad thing about Amazing Alex is that we're only really paying a lot of attention to it because it has Rovio's name on it, not because it's necessarily bringing anything new to the table. In its time, Casey's Contraptions wasn't wildly popular, but with Rovio behind the game, Amazing Alex may actually do really well. To be fair, Casey's Contraptions was exclusively available on iPad, so there is some newness to it being available on Android. 

Originality aside, the gameplay itself is fun and creative, while the user-generated content provides a long tail of entertainment the won't run out any time soon. For a buck, it's hard to go wrong. 

Download: Amazing Alex

 

 

Reader comments

Amazing Alex review - fun, but far from new

23 Comments

You hit the nail on the head in your conclusion; it's Rovio, it gets attention. While it may be more polished than its original incarnation, in the end, it's just an average game.

I got the free version figuring I'd play and decide if it was worth the 99 cents.

I played for about 10 minutes and ran out of Levels. That's something I didn't read in any Reviews. There are only 16 levels in the free version. It's not ad supported as stated, it's limited. You basically are downloading the Tutorial.

Really 16 really easy levels and your done!

Exactly! I was wondering the same damn thing... What's up with that? Anyhow, excellent review Simon, very well described! I agree 100% with your points here.

While true, they'd done it with all the Bird games, and seemed to be their trend. Perfect time for that old assume cliche! :P

I actually commend them on their business model. One payment, lifetime updates for all their games. Games like Tiny Tower and Temple Run are great, but frustrating when you run out of whatever in-app coin they use. Say what you will about Angry Birds, but they don't leave their die hard fans behind. I'm sure by this time next year Amazing Alex will be packed with levels. The addition of being able to download other people's puzzles provides endless replay-ability. It may lack in creativity as far as the core idea, but it is fun, it's deep, and it revives a dead iPad app and makes it accessible to damn near everyone.

In the initial review of this game on this website they mentioned the ad supported version; "There are three 'versions' to choose from, a free, ad-supported version, a paid version coming in at $0.99/£0.64, and a HD version for $2.99/£1.93."

So I didn't make any assumptions about it.

Can someone ask Richard Devine to update that article.

Agreed on all points. I bought the HD version, played for a few minutes, and promptly got my refund.

i am a huge fan of apparatus! this is great and cartooney, good for kids, but apparatus is the winner for a lot of people, i'm sure.

With Angry Birds Space, it was said the "regular" version looks as good as the HD so there wasn't a need to pay more...

Is Alex any different? i.e. is the HD worth the little bit extra?

Tried it a bit this morning - I like it. It's not really anything crazy new, or even all that different from the idea of AB, but it's still fun.

This is weird. I think I was one of the first ones to download the free version of the game which I installed on my Transformer Prime. After going through the free levels I decided to buy the app since it looks like a game my kids would enjoy. However, the paid version said it was incompatible with my Prime. Went back to the free version and it now said it was also incompatible. Don't want to pay for the game unless I can also install it on my tablet.

No support for Asus? What? N7, TF1, and TF Prime are all incompatible from what I can gather between myself and friends. Good luck not supporting the N7, since it will probably be the most popular android tablet. Heck, cutting out Asus probably already cuts out the second largest android tablet maker.

Blatant rip off of Casey's contraptions, rovio could have used something else other than stars, not to mention the same air as Casey... So much money, so much talent, yet they still have to resort to theft...

A lot of hate for a 99¢ kids game..
I bought it, my kids like it, all is right in the world.
I mean it's a buck how can you go wrong? It's not like it's a $16 rehash of a 90's Japanese rpg...