Complete crazy machines on your Xbox360 and PS3.
As a kid, I would marvel at the amount of effort that went into creating massive trails of dominoes which would then be knocked over at one end and invariably finished with something dramatic at the other. Whilst the complex designs and patterns that they made were interesting, for me it was always the idea that someone would go to so much trouble just to light a firework, activate a jack-in-the-box, or whatever the impressive finale was. The journey was interesting, but it was always about why they would go to such lengths to reach the destination when a simple guy with a match could have lit the bloody firework.
Obviously, now that I am grown up I can see that it is indeed about the journey and not the destination. The big finale is largely irrelevant in comparison to the skill and thought that goes into planning the route of the dominoes and the patience that goes into standing them all up. The Crazy Machine games, in which players have to create contraptions, similar to the completed contraption from the Mouse Trap board game, to achieve an objective, work on the same idea that the real entertainment comes from successfully planning the journey and seeing it play out to perfection, rather than the largely disappointing balloon popping destination at the end.
Crazy Machines Elements, from dtp Entertainment, is the third Crazy Machines game and the first one to be available on the home consoles rather than just the PC. This in itself produces a few issues, but more on that later. This physics puzzler will have players completing, and even creating, crazy machines to achieve objectives. The inclusion of elements adds something new to the formula, with fire, electric, air and water bringing their own unique properties to the puzzles.
The Puzzle mode is the main meat of the game and will begin straight away by upsetting some of the veterans of the series by taking away some of their creativity. These 100 puzzles consist of machines that are already nearly finished and the player is responsible for placing the last few missing items from their tool box in the correct places to make the machine work. The inability to manipulate the already placed pieces of the machine is what will likely frustrate the veterans who will be used to tinkering with everything on the screen. But that being said, newcomers to the genre will find the mode entertaining and plenty difficult enough, even when there are only a couple of missing pieces. The 100 puzzles will certainly keep any player busy for a while, and completing 50 of them is required to unlock the Challenge mode.
Following a similar pattern to the Puzzle mode, in Challenge mode players will again be required to complete the 20 machines available, but this time they are allowed, and may be required, to move the pieces already in place. There may only be 20 puzzles in this mode, but they are a lot more testing then those in Puzzle mode, with sometimes only a fraction of a millimetre being the difference between success and failure.
The third and final mode is the Editor where players can buy pieces that they have unlocked in Puzzle mode to create their very own machines. This mode is largely a sandbox where the player is limited only by their budget as to how bizarre their contraptions are. Although entertaining, this mode feels somewhat pointless as the creations cannot be shared with others and the player is limited to only storing 10 on their account.
Visually, everything looks bright and crisp for the most part. The little objectives that pop up on the screen could have benefited from a larger font to make them easier to read, but that is a minor fault. The games main fault comes in the porting over from the PC to the home consoles. On the PC, the use of the mouse makes everything very precise and easy to control. However, using a control pad a lot of that precision is lost. This makes those puzzles where success or failure is based upon the exact positioning of a plank somewhat frustrating. Fortunately, there is no time limit to the puzzles and the player can keep trying as many times as they want without being penalised.
Crazy Machines Elements is an entertaining little puzzle game, despite imprecise controls and the lack of creativity in the Puzzle mode. Those who have played the other games may well feel somewhat insulted by the “dumbing down” of the Puzzle mode. But for console based puzzle lovers, the game offers something different that is both satisfying and challenging.