REVIEW: Apparatus. Unlimited Sandboxing Android app

The Danish artis Storm P. and one of his crazy inventions

When I was a kid, I used to read the comics by the Danish political artist Storm P. Especially his crazy inventions inspired me, and I made drawings similar to his, but with my own inventions. I wanted to build these, to see if they worked in real life…unfortunately my dad was not a handyman or anything, so I remained loyal to the paper.






Then The Incredible machine was released!

Ever played this game back in the early 90’s? Words cannot describe how much I loved that game. I created a perpetual motion machine with a ball, a wheel and a trampoline. For many years I couldn’t understand why no one had created one in real life yet. Then I learned about the law of gravity – just one of many unrealistic elements in that game. But back then, I didn’t care that much about reality.

Now imagine that game, add some more realism and much better graphics. That’s Apparatus!

The elements in this game consists of wooden planks, nails, robes, engines, wires, balls, wheels, ect.

Mission-mode. How would you solve this?

There are multiple ways to play this game:

You can try the missions, where your goal is quite simple: Get the ball in the blue basket (look at the picture on the left) The complexity of the missions increases and you need all the brain activity available to complete the last ones. But of course, in these missions, there is (for the most part) only one way to complete them. The instructional guidance prevents creative thinking.

Then it’s good there is a sandbox-mode! Here, everything is possible. You can build complex constructions and machines with the functionality you want as long as your imagination follows your technical skills.

You can also create your own missions and share them with other players.

The friction-issue

But then the “wall of realism” strikes back: The friction of the elements (for instance a ball pushed over a plank by another element, look at the picture to the right) is too tight. This results in obstructions that almost cannot be solved! You will need to be extremely precise to avoid this, which slows down the building process. Also, you will quickly miss the limited zoom-out function, to see your invention in one screen instead of having to touch-navigate around.

Apart from that, Apparatus is an extremely true to life creation tool. I’m not tired of the sandbox-mode yet (and I have been playing it for quite a while now) and so far, I have created all sorts of arcade machines, working vehicles, and weapons. The app works best on tables due to the larger screen.

From a learning perspective, this is exactly what Seymore Papert calls constructionism – when learners construct their own knowledge by cognition AND by expressive creations, such as building. I am absolutely sure, this will give kids an idea of how physics and machines work and I could think of many ways to use this app in educational settings and school. For instance, the teacher could give the students a task: “Build a working watermill”.

Give it a try!

A video of the game:

Some more screen dumps:

Shooting vehicle

Tank-alike vehicle on tracks

Pinball machine

Rating: 5/6