When I first saw a gameplay video for Crazy Machines 2, a lot of thoughts ran through my head. Thoughts like: why haven't I heard of this before, is this a spiritual sequel to The Incredible Machine series, and how many different objects can they fit into this game?

The answers are: I don't know, sure, and a lot.

If you've ever played one of the "Incredible Machine" series of games, you'll know exactly the kind of game that is Crazy Machines 2. In a nutshell, you're given a series of levels, each with its own set of pre-built machinery and objectives. Your goal is, given a set of tools and devices, to create a Rube-Goldberg-esque machine that'll, in the end, perform the given task. Then, you move on to the next machine to complete.

What makes the game interesting is how a seemingly random grouping of bits can work together to complete a (usually) pointless, but difficult, task. This has been done a few ways before in other games, so you might be wondering what's so special about this game in particular. My answer?


More specifically, Physics.

Crazy Machines 2 has a fully-functioning physics system that allows you to do a lot of fun stuff. It also lets you make very unconventional solutions, but that's beside the point. Balls will bounce, barrels will roll and spin, the crash dummy will flail like only a ragdoll-physics-enabled dummy can, and so forth. It's a great addition to the genre. The only problem is that there are times when it will slow things down as things get a little crazy on-screen.

And there are a lot of things that can go on-screen. There are lasers, robots, lightning, electricity control, crash-test dummies, ropes and chains, and walls (and their destruction), and all that's just off the top of my head. The game has more than enough contraptions to keep your interest, presented in a fairly good-looking 3D engine. One of the faults with this, however, is that the utility of some devices isn't really obvious. Sure, there's a tooltip for objects that you need to use to solve the puzzle, but this tooltip doesn't appear for objects already on the screen, and even then it can be somewhat vague. A tutorial helps somewhat (especially for things like switches and switch bases, for example), but doesn't solve the problem entirely.

The game has its fair share of problems, though. First of all, the screen is often too 'busy' to get a quick handle on what is going on. Sometimes the background is too detailed, like a brown-on-white latticework, which makes it harder to pick out the devices put out, for example. There are also some problems with the interface, making some things hard to do. This is especially true with resizing walls, connecting ropes and chains and even just controlling the camera.

The problem that's probably the worst, however, is the design of the levels. For some reason, they're not very interesting. In each map you get a primary objective and a set of secondary objectives that you can complete if you wish (earning you bonus points and a golden medal for the level). But the objectives lack the interesting flair that the previous games in the genre have enjoyed, like firing a hot-air balloon, having a cat devour a mouse, or sending little Mel into his home (The Incredible Machine 2 was big on wacky). Instead, here you'll be breaking vases, putting balls into baskets, and other things which really fail to grab interest, as they all start running together.

In some cases, the solution is so ridiculous that instead of the usual "oh yeah, I should've seen that," you usually end up scratching your head wondering how it could be possible for you to do what they wanted. Often I've come up with a solution that works perfectly fine (without exploiting the well-meaning physics system), and yet I'd be left with extra parts in my bin. Then I see the solution, a ridiculous mess of contraptions compared to my simpler solution, and I would just wonder how in the world I was supposed to plan this madness out.

The game gives you a lot to play through, with a large 'campaign' including a tutorial to get you started. There's also a bonus chapter with a few more levels, but this requires a special physics card to play through. Pity. Of course, no game of this sort would be complete without giving you the option to make your own labs and trade them with others, which is also available, so there's a lot more for you to do if you enjoy what you're doing. And if you feel like a certain level is getting in your way, you can either get a written clue, 'spy' on the solution at a particular location of the puzzle, or just get the entire solution and skip the puzzle completely. Each will cost you points, but if you're not too interested in the medals (and the in-game achievements they bring), then feel free to use them.

Crazy Machines 2 as a whole delivers a certainly interesting experience. Seeing the 'crazy machine' genre revived in 3D with a physics engine is something I've been waiting for since I stopped playing The Incredible Machine 2 (the Toon Machine doesn't really count), and it does a lot of things right. A variety of contraptions, a lot of applications of various forces like magnetism and lightning, and a lot of puzzles to solve means a lot of time spent. There are problems, like a poor interface, a lack of interesting objectives and locations, and a generally sense of realism that doesn't really belong in a game like this. Still, it's fun, replayable, and while it won't exactly duplicate the feeling that the original games of the genre elicited, it'll certainly bring back memories.