Publisher: dtp entertainment / Developer: FAKT Software / Platform: PSN, XBLA

Anyone remember The Incredible Machine?  As a kid I used to adore the series.  In it you are given Rube Goldberg-esque puzzles in which you have to figure out which pieces go where in order to complete the machine.  Back then the puzzles were too hard for me so I spent most of my time in the edit mode, creating my own machines from scratch.  The game was like a virtual sandbox;  you were given a plethora of tools, toys and objects, each with their own physics such as weight, mass and bounciness, as well as their own unique uses (a laser, for instance, can be used to pop a balloon or light the wick on a candle).  Imagine my surprise years later, when I find out that Crazy Machines, the spiritual sequel of sorts, was coming to XBLA.  Does it live up to my childhood memories?  Is it merely a shadow of its former self underneath the fancy Havok physics and dynamic lighting effects?

First thing’s first:  I have never played Crazy Machines Elements (which I assume is supposed to be an expansion to the original Crazy Machines) on PC, so I have no idea what is similar and what isn’t.  What I can tell you, though, is that if you’re a fan of puzzle games, physics, or just tinkering with every day objects, Crazy Machines Elements is absolutely worth checking out.

The main draw of the game is the Puzzle mode, in which you’re given a limited number of objects to use in order to complete some sort of task, like popping a balloon or moving a toy truck to the other side of the level.  These puzzles increase in difficulty and complexity as you move on, although there is a good amount of puzzles that allow you to warm up to the game and get used to how things work, and that “a-ha!” moment you finally get when trying to figure out a puzzle and everything clicks continues to delight me, even in the later puzzles.

One repeating problem I had with the puzzles was the fact that every once in awhile the puzzle wasn’t simply figuring out which pieces should go where, but the exact degree of rotation and nanometer of placement everything needs to be in.  Not every puzzle has it (thankfully), but every so often you’ll find yourself watching your machine move forward only to fail because you placed a wooden plank two pixels away from where it was supposed to be.

True to The Incredible Machine, every object in Crazy Machines Elements has its own unique, realistic physics, with a few things that I’d never seen before in the genre.  For example, fire spreads quickly over wooden objects (everything will burn eventually at extreme temperatures too, which is a neat touch), metal objects will conduct electricity, and even the weather in the background will affect things happening onscreen.  These add another level of complexity to the puzzles and the way objects interact with one another.

There is a rather large amount of puzzles to run through in Crazy Machines Elements, as well as a sandbox Editor mode and a Challenge mode that is similar to the Puzzle mode, save for the fact that the arsenal of tools at your disposal is much larger, and the point becomes less about simply completing the puzzle but instead how  you complete it.

Crazy Machines Elements is an excellent puzzle game that is well worth the time of any fans of Rube Goldberg machines or physics puzzles, and an absolute must-buy for anyone that grew up with The Incredible Machine.  Any issues I had with the game (the issue mentioned earlier as well as a rare but odd framerate hitch that would sometimes crop up when highlighting a machine part in a puzzle) did very little to hinder the fun I was having using a Tesla coil to light a candle.