Crazy Machines Elements (XBLA) Review

This summer Xbox Live has been buzzing along with top notch games for the Xbox Live Arcade.  Week after week we are seeing bigger and better Xbox Live games hit the market.  Bastion is just one of many examples of how far along some of these Xbox Live Arcade Games have come.  As we head towards the end of the Summer Arcade madness, dtp entertainment releases Crazy Machines Elements for Xbox Live Arcade.  Can this puzzle game continue the trend of great Xbox Live Arcade games to come out this summer?  Well in short the answer is no; however, not all is lost as Crazy Machines is a vibrant and challenging game for those looking for a quick ‘return to school’ puzzle fix.

So what is Crazy Machines you ask?  It is a puzzle game where you create wacky chain reactions using different parts.  For those that live on the West Coast and have been to Science World in Vancouver, BC, you will know exactly what I am talking about.  Rube Goldberg is the inventor of such machines where an object, and in many cases a ball, travels across platforms, spinning wheels, levers and other surfaces as it makes it way from the top to the bottom of an apparatus.  Usually the end result is a balloon popping or a fire cracker igniting; or in the case of the Science World Machine, an annoying bell sounding off.  There is something fascinating about these machines and ever since I was a kid, I recall making far less elaborate machines with Christmas wrapping paper cardboard rolls.  I would just watch marbles travel across the various platforms with amazement.  It was silly but I had this sense of accomplishment if the marbles traveled and dropped just as I envisioned they should.

With Crazy Machines Elements you receive the same sense of satisfaction if you are able to solve the puzzle by filling in various pieces of the complicated sequence that will allow your object to travel from point A to point B.  For those of you who played any of the game in the Incredible Machines franchise there are some striking similarities.  Much like The Incredible Machines, you are putting together pieces of a complex puzzle in order to perform a simple task.  Available objects range from simple ropes to bowling balls.

Every puzzle has missing pieces and you are tasked with figuring out what pieces are required in order to move your object from point A to B.  It seems like such a simple idea but it works.  The contraptions start out rather simple but as they get real hard real quick.  The chain reactions that occur in the game are nicely varied.  Whether it be moving a toy truck or a basketball across or down an apparatus you never know what you are going to get from one level to the next.  Finding the right pieces of the puzzles is the key and you would think this would be an easy task but after the first few levels it gets hard and sadly there are no hints to help you out along the way.

There are approximately 100 puzzles to solve in the game which progressively become much more difficult.  As you play and solve puzzles, additional puzzles become unlocked.  As I mentioned, Crazy Machines does offer up quite a bit in terms of variety.  Fire, water, ice and power all play a hand in the game many puzzles.  Your inventory where the missing pieces of the puzzle feature items such as rope, moving planks, boxes, catapults, bowling pins, etc.

Much like Angry Birds, you are scored after you complete each puzzle.  The scoring system varies from each level to the next and depends on a number of factors such as how many parts you used.  There is the ability to become creative with the ways you can solve each puzzle by taking advantage of your inventory but the game ultimately is looking for the ideal placement of each item.  There were a few instances in the game where I became stuck and I would take an eternity trying to place items on all parts of the apparatus as I struggled to figure it out.  A hint button would have been helpful to keep things moving along but I guess that would defeat the purpose of this challenging puzzle game.

Unfortunately there were some occasions where I solved a puzzle relatively quickly but I was punished with a poor score as I did not solve the puzzle the way the game intended me to complete it. It is still satisfying to complete the puzzle and unlock the next stream, but far too often I felt like it was a trial and error guessing game.

The games visuals are bright and vibrant.  Crazy Machines Elements is a very colourful game and features plenty of eye candy.  Objects are easy to differentiate and the animations are crystal clear.  The menus are easy to navigate and I noticed no major slow downs or frame rate issues.  The game however features in game objectives in the form of small dialogue text boxes which appear on certain parts of the level.  These text boxes were far too small and made it difficult for me to read.  Larger objective boxes featuring large print would have been greatly appreciated.  Long loading times are also an issue with the game at times; otherwise, Crazy Machines scores decent marks in terms of its visuals.

As far as the games sound is concerned, much like the games visuals the overall sound package in Crazy Machines is decent. The games music is very mellow and almost reminds me of some of those mellow Death Cab for Cutie tunes.  That might be a bit of a stretch but I noticed some similarities.  The music could have been a little more upbeat as frankly some of the tunes sounded depressing.  That said the music comes through crystal clear.  The games sound effects are also decent and manage to do the job.  The game features no voice work which is somewhat surprising considering the game may have benefited from some voice instructions on how to play the game.

While I spent the bulk of my time in puzzle mode, Crazy Machine Elements also includes a challenge mode and level editor.  The unfortunate part of Challenge mode is that it remains locked until you have completed all the puzzles in puzzle mode.  The level editor is available at the onset.  For those wanna-be inventors there is some satisfaction when designing your very own complicated contraption.  Unfortunately you cannot share these inventions with your friends online.  In fact, Crazy Machines offers no online leaderboards or co-op modes.  You would think an online leaderboard would offer up some replay value and incentive for buddies to download the game and solve each puzzle the best way possible.  Sadly, no such online functionality exists.

Overall, Crazy Machine Elements is a decent puzzle game which features vibrant visuals and some challenging puzzles.  Completing each puzzle is rewarding but the difficulty of each puzzle rapidly increases which may turn off some gamers.  Not to mention the lack of online features and other issues prevent this game from being so much better.  While Crazy Machines is a game puzzle fanatics will want to try, it is however a game they should wait until it is available at a cheaper price.

The Good


The Bad