Crazy Machines 2: Complete Review - August 4th 2009

The Crazy Machines series is something of a paradox. Its products are championed as fun puzzle games, yet clearly teach you about science and physics at the same time. Is this something to be afraid of, or embraced?

Available at a budget price (RRP 19.99), Crazy Machines 2: Complete offers well over 200 levels and items to test your patience, skill and knowledge of the game's intricacies. Those familiar with the original game will feel right at home here, but for everyone else, we'd better go over the basics of what Crazy Machines is all about.

You are tasked with using a selection of items to set off a chain of events activating or achieving an end goal. Some are technical, where you must use belts and pulleys to work other equipment in the arena, setting a task in motion. Others have you alter the course of a ball to reach a goal, or knock over a specific object. Like with Rude Goldberg machines, many are over-the-top and require an over-engineered approach due to the items you are initially provided with. Once you flick the switch though (starting the experiment and giving everything realistic physics, allowing them to operate) watching the domino effect unfurl is worthy of all your effort – providing it works as planned that is.

The puzzles are often ingenious and so satisfying to solve.

You begin in a central hub, staffed by an Einstein-alike professor. He chirps in regularly with helpful insights, as well as humorous comments designed to get the scientist in you chuckling to himself. This hub area is where the game's trump card is first shown off: the physics. You can use the pencil-cursor to click and manoeuvre all the objects on the desk in front of you, playing with them, building towers of items, and generally mucking about. This is all great; it's a nice, fun introduction to the game. The problem comes when you begin the first tutorial and Einstein starts rabbiting on at you about drive belts, boilers and lightning machines.

A brave decision has been made to voice everything that your instructor says. This is not only true throughout the tutorials, but also for the main game and the levels within. He gives you a brief outline of what you need to construct, or the puzzle you need to solve. You are then loosed on the task with a set of items, all stored initially in your inventory. There are already objects laid around the set that you can't move; the idea is to use your own implements to complete the puzzle. As they get more and more complicated, you have to continually stop and resume the experiment, gradually edging your way closer to the final goal. The tutorials do a poor job of endearing you to these Crazy Machines, with badly explained puzzles and touchy requirements for completing them.

Things can get a bit overloaded at times.

In the main campaign you have to put large sections of equipment into the scene to complete the level, and often the difference between particular items are not as obvious as you might think. They also have functions that you may not know about, not being an expert yourself. While everything is based in physics, it also means that unlike most games, you have to do things not only correctly, but accurately. Put a light source too far away from a solar panel, and it will not create enough electricity to power the windmill to complete the task. It will spin, but not enough. Some people may love this added layer of difficulty, but it puts it out of reach of some younger gamers based on the fact that they may try something, fail, and then try a different solution. The first answer is often the right one; it's just the execution that is lacking. Most levels contain secondary objectives that aren't compulsory, but give you more points. You can ignore these, making completion of the puzzle easier, but the fact that extra challenges are there if you want them is welcome.

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