Written by  :  D Michael (232)
Written on  :  Apr 06, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars

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A very unique, if short, experience

The Good

This game could not be more accurately named, as the title just about says it all. In Crazy Machines we have the opportunity to experiment, design, and solve various Rube Goldberg style puzzles.

Rube Goldberg was a very famous cartoonist that was known for creating machines which were extremely complex, yet performed simple tasks in indirect ways. Various Warner Bros. cartoons featured some of these, and the hotly debated "Honda Commercial" is a great example of the type of contraption we're talking about.

The game starts off rather simple and direct. Each puzzle gives you a goal which often has arrows displayed in the lab which point out what item needs to go where. You may be instructed to knock a stack of boxes over, or perhaps pop a balloon. Of course, doing any of this requires creating a complex machine for the simple task. As the puzzles progress, the goals become more complex and the solutions less obvious.

You'll have a select reserve of machine parts, each that perform various functions, available to complete each puzzle. The parts range from something as mundane as a flat piece of wood, all the way to electrical outlets and machines, explosives, and even anti-gravity devices. What's more is that these parts interact with each other as you'd expect they would in a real life situation. Electrical wiring can get complicating, but the accuracy of function is so good that a real life electrician could probably provide electrical solutions on the first try while others will have to experiment with trial and error.

What really makes this game shine is the fact that there are many ways to solve one puzzle. By contrast, most other puzzle games have one solution, and you must discover the solution that the designer wants you to use. In Crazy Machines this isn't the case. You may even have parts left over, or solve the puzzle by accident. When you have placed your machine parts, there is a switch you hit to turn the machine on, and you can watch as the cause and effect of the entire contraption play out. If it doesn't work, you can make adjustments to problem areas. I had one puzzle which I solved completely by accident. I was supposed to knock a stack of boxes over by running into it with a hard object, but a balloon got loose and knocked them over. This was a completely unforeseen solution, but nevertheless was a solution which allowed me to continue on to the next puzzle. Furthermore, once the puzzle is solved, you have the option of viewing the "right" way of solving the puzzle and can compare what you did with what the designers had in mind. Sometimes the solutions are similar, and at other times not even close. I really like the fact that personal creativity and insight can be rewarded.

There are 103 puzzles. Sometimes you might complete 2 or 3 puzzles in a row, and other times you might work on a single puzzle for a long time. Eventually, you'll get to see what appears like every possible scenario for these crazy machines. Once you finish the puzzles (or before that if you like) there is a mode where you can play around and build your own experiments, or even make puzzles for other people to play. While I haven't gotten into this part of the game much, I would be very disappointed in the design if this feature were absent.

The Bad

There are some minor flaws with the game, but nothing too serious.

For one I didn't like that progress is recorded for only one person. There aren't multiple save slots, and you can only load the most recent puzzle. In other words, several people on the same computer will be playing each others' games, and not have their own.

There is sparse documentation to the game on CD. It's a mystery as to the function and/or purpose of some of the contraptions in the game which requires trial and error just to discover what something does. One of these machine's function was so vague that I had to actually cheat, solve the puzzle, and watch what it did in order to understand its purpose. There should have been a more verbose description of parts when you mouse-over them.

If you play the game regularly, you can finish all of the puzzles in a relatively short period of time. While this is forgivable because of the very low price of the game (less than half the cost of a big release retail title), if you're not into building your own experiments there is little reason to return. Replay value just isn't there.

There is some very slight stutter in the sound and graphics at times. I've tried the game on several different PCs this is present on all of them. It's not a major issue, but you will notice it.

The professor is very annoying, as are some other sound features, but thankfully these issues can be corrected through the options menu.

The Bottom Line

This is a very unique game that is a delight to play. Wonderful for children and adults alike, Crazy Machines delivers a solid PC gaming experience with an "outside of the box" approach to game design.