Physics simulation puzzlers are among the most satisfying games “on paper”. You have the moving parts that need tweaking, the vessel which needs deliverance and the target to finish the level. Theoretically one could approach them in an almost open-ended fashion, try out the various combinations to detail-out the synergy between the moving bits and achieve a solution unique to that moment.
But most often that’s not what physics puzzlers appear: satisfying on paper; in practice their execution is kind of hit-and-miss. Inside The Gear is one such game. With clumsy presentation, unrealistic physics and a lack of mouse controls, it’s the game where the challenge is the unwieldiness of the keyboard controls rather than the puzzles themselves.
Levels aren’t intuitive enough to stimulate the mind; rather the solution is often the product of trial-and-error amidst unreliable physics of the planks, cubes and wheels. This brings us the bare-bones level of complexity and interactability of the puzzles themselves. Your basic tools of the trade simply involve planks as platforms and a cube for a weight, using which you need to steer a wheel to a pedestal switch. The only advance to this formula is the inclusion of a second pedestal in the later levels.
Some glaring missteps include the audio-visual feedback which suffers from flawed execution. For instance the “level completed” notification occurs almost a few seconds after completion. Resultantly in the first few tricky levels, I had accidentally restarted the simulation guessing I hadn’t cleared the level.
Then there is a weird anomaly, that I noticed while endlessly trying to complete a level: it turns out when you begin the simulation the results of a particular contraption are not always consistent. The wheel that needs deliverance would often get catapulted a little further or closer as if on a whim. This totally discourages any conviction for changing the setup; instead you end-up hitting stop and start endlessly hoping for the results to change.
With its 25 non-coherent levels that may take you anywhere between two hours to a life-time to luck out, Inside The Gear is an uninspired game trapped in the past, a game that must up its ante, especially when it’s got contemporaries that sport much more complexity (Enigmo 2, iBlast Moki) and incredible polish (Casey’s Contraptions, Amazing Alex).