IncrediBots is obviously influenced by The Incredible Machine, but equally, is an attempt to create a digital version of a construction set toy -- a set of tools that allow users to create a wide variety of objects in a freeform (or as we say in digital games, sandbox) way.
It's also created by Grubby Games, which developed the excellent Professor Fizzwizzle games; like many 'casual' game developers, one presumes they've come to the conclusion that the money-making opportunities in that benighted market are increasingly slim, and have moved to a different business model. IncrediBots is free to play, or rather, can be played at the expense of having a Mochi ad served to you intermittently, but also tries to upsell you on becoming an "IncrediBots supporter," at a $2/month subscription, with some extra features available to such. A "freemium" model, in other words (and how I hate the term).
The main features of interest are: 1) a very flexible, but perhaps overly complex, system for creating animatable 2D objects, subject to physics effects, out of polygons; 2) a set of 'challenges' that ask you to meet some objective as quickly as possible with devices you build in the application; and 3) the ability to save scenes and bots you've created for others to explore.
The creation scheme is impressive in what it can accomplish; the image above is from a fan-created robot inspired by Howl's Moving Castle. It also involves quite a variety of menus, submenus, check-boxes, text entry blanks, and the like; I don't think I've ever seen a Flash application with such involved UI. It starts to remind you of Photoshop -- although that's a bit of an exaggeration, of course.
The challenges make you start to think that this is a puzzle game, like Professor Fizzwizzle -- and you can certainly enjoy it as such, although the number of such levels is small, given the amount of effort that's gone into IncrediBots.
But what's impressive is the quantity, and quality, of user-created content; some people have truly gone to town with the system, in some cases creating very engaging little puzzles, in others (as with Howl's Moving Castle) impressive exhibitions of what the engine is capable of. I've yet to be convinced that "user created content" is the wave of the future (particularly given that "time before penis" is generally measured in milliseconds), but IncrediBots does seem to have harnessed the enthusiasm of its users to good effect.
It's not something I'm likely to spend a lot of time with; building gizmos has limited appeal. But I can see why it does appeal to many; it clearly has an educational benefit for kid and teen users; and it's a impressive bit of ActionScript coding. Not surprisingly, it's an IGF finalist this year in the "technical excellence" category.