Finally a successor to the The Incredible Machine (TIM) series! If you played TIM, buy this! If you like puzzles, buy this! If you like throwing cats with deadpan faces off the screen, buy this! Even without going on sale, the game has quite a bit of content you don't have to worry about not getting your money's worth, unless you're not into this type of game at all. I got this for the equivalent of 0.50 USD during Summer Sale 2015. That is such a freaking steal that I am now a professional thief.
There are many new parts that were added in this game. Just to name a few, you now have Tinker the dog, as well as many variations of Tim (Sledding? Walking? Snowball-throwing?). The variations in Tim, in particular, makes sense as Tim used to just be the cannon fodder that you threw everywhere with boxing gloves, springs, anti-gravity pads, as well as getting him stuck on a blimp, all with the aim of getting him back to his house. This increases the number of ways you can throw cats with deadpan faces off the screen.
Many parts can now be adjusted to have their area of effect changed. For example, the scissors used to be something that can only be placed horizontally, but now it can be rotated 360 degrees. You can also choose at what angle you wish the kettle to blow an object. All these improvements combine to make the game deeper and more flexible.
You also no longer have to struggle with placement of objects. There were some puzzles where you had to adjust your objects by the pixel so that they would get contact in the exact right spot and respond to each other. That's no longer the case here. The hitbox is bigger now, which does not make the game easier, though it does make it much less frustrating. You no longer have to worry about the stupid candle not being in the exact right spot to launch the rocket.
Also on the topic of mechanics, the addition of a fast-forward button is simply genius. There have been many times in TIM where puzzles take more than 15-30 seconds to execute in its entirety. Combined with the earlier-mentioned problem of object detection, it can be extremely annoying. This solves that problem, and can also save you time if you're a veteran player wishing to blow past the easy levels.
Art and Sound:
This may just be the nostalgia speaking, but The Incredible Machine series had a very engaging soundtrack, whether it was the MIDI or the upgraded non-MIDI version. CM's do not stand out particularly as very good compositions, and there are a few pieces of music that are slightly grating (like the main theme). Having said that, I must qualify that CM's soundtrack is actually decent, just not as good as TIM's.
Next, the art style of CM is very different from TIM. While TIM goes for a clean and flat look (likely an artifact of the technological restrictions at the time), CM has a more "shaded" style of art which is very obvious on certain objects like Tinker the dog. I slightly prefer TIM's art style, but I think the departure from that art style is an attempt to distant the game from the original series, which is not a bad idea at all. What developer wishes their game to only be referred to as a clone of another game? I still find the new art style a little jarring, but I'm sure it's just a matter of getting used to it.
TIM had its own system of map sharing that was later discontinued. Now that CM is launched on a reliable platform like Steam, I think it's safe to say that custom map support won't be an issue further down the road, which will mean there's a whole lot of content out there even after you're done with the original puzzles. Community engagement is also at an all-time high.
After all that, CM does have its own shortcomings. The level editor has categorized all the objects with the aim of making it easy to find parts. However, imagine my annoyance when it took me 5 minutes to realize that the anti-gravity pad was actually not part of any of the categories, and had to be accessed by viewing all the parts.
The game has also decided to opt to include a zoom and pan feature. This is more likely an accessibility feature than anything else, however, the OCD in me is very disturbed by the fact that you can pan the level even without zooming, and you end up with black borders on the side.
In summary, despite some questionable decisions, CM has made many refinements to mechanics that TIM got wrong. Fast-forward, more consistent object interactions, and almost-assured longevity of the game due to the its community makes this an easy recommend. I give Contraption Maker a 8.5 cats with deadpan faces out of 10.
It is a pity CM was kind of an under-the-radar release. I look forward to seeing CM flourish as its own series.