hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Crazy Machines Elements

Review: Crazy Machines Elements

2:00 PM on 10.20.2011 // Darren Nakamura

Everybody loves Rube Goldberg machines.  It's a fact of life.  From breakfast in Pee Wee's Big Adventure to OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass," the art of building a contraption to perform a simple task through a series of convoluted and unnecessary steps is always fascinating.

Back in the day, a game called The Incredible Machine satisfied that fascination for me.  It allowed for the construction of intricate machines using fantastic pieces, though each had noticeably programmed behavior.  In more recent years, the Crazy Machines series has updated the genre with better graphics and, more importantly, better physics. Crazy Machines Elements brings the PC franchise to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and it survives the transition fairly well.

Crazy Machines Elements (Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed], PlayStation Network)
Developer: FAKT Software
Publisher: DTP Entertainment
Released: August 24, 2011
MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points, $9.99

At its core, the gameplay in Crazy Machines Elements is the same as that in The Incredible Machine nearly twenty years ago.  Players are presented with a nearly completed Goldberg machine, and a relatively simple goal.  (Put the ball in the bucket.  Light the candle on fire.  Pop the balloon.)  Players are then given a toolbox with a limited set of tools to complete the machine and perform the task.

Where the Crazy Machines franchise improves on the formula is not only in the addition of more lifelike physics, but also the addition of impossible physics.  A few of the more interesting items in the game include an inextinguishable fireball, a gravity machine which can change the direction of gravitational pull or turn it off entirely, and a clone cannon which will scan an object and shoot an exact copy of that object out of its barrel.

The puzzle difficulty curve is right at the sweet spot.  The first ten or so puzzles introduce the player to the interface, and mostly involve simple Newtonian mechanics concepts like conservation of momentum and projectile motion.  By the second set of puzzles, players are igniting fires and detonating explosives.  By the end, machines have components involving electricity, magnetism, light, robots, UFOs, and the aforementioned impossible machines.

In addition to the main game mode featuring about a hundred puzzles, there is also a custom level editor that gives the player access to all of the possible pieces, along with a pretty generous budget to spend on them.  Where the puzzles in the main game mode usually have one distinct correct solution, the level editor is limited mostly by the creator's imagination.  It is likely to be a hit among fans of Minecraft or Garry's Mod, though the restriction to a two dimensional plane may stifle some ideas.

A third game mode, fittingly dubbed Challenge Mode can be accessed after finishing enough of the main game puzzles.  It features a set of challenges that are presumably very difficult, but this reviewer only got to see the first one, as its extreme difficulty has kept me from accessing the succeeding challenges.  For the resolute or more capable constructors, Challenge Mode appears to be where much of the replay value can be found, as players attempt not just to achieve a static goal, but shoot for best times as well.

There are a few rough spots that can be expected when moving a PC franchise to consoles. Most commonly, control can suffer if not handled well, and it provides some annoyance in Elements. With many different commands spread across the three modes and only a finite number of buttons available, there are menus and submenus, with some buttons doing different things in different modes. While that seems like it would make sense, I couldn't count the number of times I accidentally loaded up the Leaderboards for Challenge Mode when I intended to restart the puzzle, since the command was mapped to a different button than in the Puzzle Mode.

Another control issue is that for some reason, when placing a piece, the very first movement it makes is one space opposite the direction intended. While it usually isn't an issue, some puzzles require precise item placement in order to achieve the intended result. When there is only one possible spot for an item to effect the desired outcome, this little bug makes getting the piece into said spot a bit aggravating.

Overall, that's an irritating byproduct of some physics-based puzzles. Some puzzles exist in which the player can know the correct solution, but still spend time placing pieces just so in order to make it work as intended. Any puzzles involving springs or projectile motion are particularly finicky, but fortunately those that suffer from this niggle are few and far between.

Otherwise, the only complaint I have is more psychological than mechanical. After one completes any given puzzle, setting the Goldberg machine into motion and achieving the goal, Crazy Machines Elements replays the awesome thing that just happened. After spending upwards of thirty minutes solving a complex puzzle, it would be great if the player were given the visual reward of seeing the result of his hard work. However, in addition to the replay, the game chooses to show a static image of its ugly Einstein-doppelganger mascot giving two thumbs up in front of the action, while obstructing the really cool stuff happening behind him. It may seem like a minor thing, but this was actually my biggest complaint with Elements.

Still, there is a special kind of joy that one derives from building something, physically or digitally, and it far outweighs the little annoyances and stupid design decisions. One particularly cool part of Elements is in the Achievements. In addition to the standard ones for finishing the game, there are some that give specific instructions, such as shooting two cannonballs with one cannon. As far as I can tell, the only way to achieve these is to build a level from scratch, rather than just play a built in level. It's fascinating that many people have probably earned those Achievements through radically different means.

Lastly, a special note should be made that, aside from the music in the main menu, the soundtrack is surprisingly good.  It won't move anybody to tears or recall fond memories years down the road, but for mellow atmospheric music, it does its job well. It doesn't distract from the action on screen, and it soothes to the point where spending a good chunk of time on any one puzzle doesn't feel so long.

All in all, Crazy Machines Elements is a good example of its genre. While the genre itself hasn't evolved much in the past twenty years, there is still an undeniable satisfaction that one derives from building and watching Goldberg machines run. For only ten dollars, puzzle fans and creative types can find a lot to enjoy here.



Crazy Machines Elements - Reviewed by Darren Nakamura
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Darren Nakamura, Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Dexter345 Tips
Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
SCIENCE. IS. AWESOME. [youtube][/youtube]
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Looks like my copy of Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash won't be here till Tuesday. What do I pay for Amazon Prime for again? I think I might have to stream me playing it.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
I have just heard someone say Uncharted was a "role playing game."
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
The glitched walking animation people carrying crates in Novigrad do is hilarious.
TheLimoMaker avatarTheLimoMaker
Undecided what to do with my weekend now my fiancée is away. One part of me says I should work my ass off, another says I should go watch The Martian while the last part tells me to be a slob, play games and masturbate to Highschool DXD.. Such a hard lif
Steel Squirrel avatarSteel Squirrel
The 1.10 patch for The Witcher 3 is out. Downloading for PS4. Pretty excited to see the changes, especially since it said the damn swamps in Velen would finally see performance enhancements, along with like a million other areas. So good! Yes?
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
Just got confirmation that a feature I spent way too long writing is going up on Sunday. Not a bad way to start the weekend off, though I wish I had a slot on a weekday.
gajknight avatargajknight
PB&J sandwiches. Saturday morning cartoons. A blanket. Ominous sounds coming from the next room. Blood seeping from the walls. A dark figure standing in the corner, staring, watching. Darkness, everywhere. Such darkness. This is childhood.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Dear Namco, give me a proper localizer Super Robot Wars title. I need it in my viens, especially this
Mark Plechaty avatarMark Plechaty
Cynic without a Cause avatarCynic without a Cause
I just wanna get drunk and listen to J-pop
extatix avatarextatix
Spiel was mightily expensive. Holy shit... Good thing I didn't bring more money with me, too. Saw enough stuff I'd love to own.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
In memory of Lesser Dog of the snow fields. 1 spaghetti = never forgetty
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Trialling PS Now - review to come later - has reminded me of a piece of little-reported PS3 news. Owners of hacked PS3s could turn any PS2 game into a 'Classics' title and run them on a bog-standard PS3 with few issues.
nanashi avatarnanashi
Wanna ask a question for tomorrow's PStoid? You still have time! While you're at it don't forget to ask one for Riobux too!!
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
I caught a reflective mumbling about MGSV's open structure and how it doesn't sit well with me, to be published whenever I litter it with images.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Welp, an article today got me thinking about this so without further ado, whats your favorite pokemon? This is mine:
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
I cast my little worm in to the pond for a topic to try to make a blog about today. I fish fish fish but nothing bites bites bites.
Perro avatarPerro
I cracked and bought Final Fantasy Dimensions on Android last night. Half off sounded like just the right price, though I wish this came out on 3DS or even the Vita but at least it gives me something to do on the porcelain throne!
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Coming soon in Mortal Kombat XXX DLC - HUMILITALITY [youtube][/youtube]
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Crazy Machines Elements

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -