Review – Assembly Line

Assembly Line isn’t really a game that sells itself. The box art is fairly plain, and the screenshots aren’t much better. Oh, and it’s called Assembly Line, a term that probably sends fear coursing through the veins of anyone that’s ever worked for minimum wage.

Write it off based on all that, though, and you’ll actually miss out on a really interesting puzzle game.

So, the screenshot. Paying attention?

In the top right, you have what the customer has requested from you. You then have twelve conveyor belts in which to insert machines to make it. A plain grey slate is inserted into the first machine and it’s yours to manipulate how you wish. In the shot above, the first machine is a yellow paint machine. This paints the top half of the front of the slate, yellow. The next machine etches a thin line across the centre. The third machine drills two round holes across that same centre line. That’s all fairly simple, and if the paint was red and the round holes were square, that would produce a product that is exactly what the customer has requested of you at the top right there.

Level done, move on.

The game progresses like this, but of course gets much more complex. Almost immediately the rotating machine becomes available, and so now you have to make sure that the slate is oriented correctly so that any paint, holes, or lines are put onto it at the correct angle or in the correct place. Later, you’ll have to mix paint colours, and then you’ll start using a machine that flips the slate over so that you can put designs on the bottom, too. Of course, no matter how intricate the designs become, you’ve only ever got twelve slots for your machines to make it.

It’s not really the mechanics of the puzzles that makes them so satisfying to solve, though, it’s the way in which it forces you to think about them. All you know is that a blank slate enters at the left, and until you turn the machine on you can’t be sure what’s going to come out. Through each machine you place you have to keep track in your mind of which direction the slate’s facing, what you’ve put on it, what needs to be done, how far to rotate it, etc, and when it all comes together at the end I feel like a total genius. You. I mean you. You feel like a total genius.

And it’s that feeling that the game’s all about really, because as I say, it doesn’t have the graphics and the presentation to sell it as well as many other games. It just has 100 levels (and then a level editor) to make you feel great over and over again.

Assembly Line is available now for 80 Microsoft Points.

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