Crazy Machines

   27/04/2009 at 08:48       Phil May       2 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
[iTunes Store Link]

As hoary old PC classics go...

...The Incredible Machine was years ahead of its time. Tasking the player with constructing the most whacked out and weird ways of performing certain tasks, it spawned several sequels before disappearing into videogaming history.

With the recent revival of interest in physics-based puzzle games though, the games have always been ripe for a comeback. Though we've had some brilliant stuff like Fantastic Contraption on the iPhone, we've been sadly lacking a machine-based puzzler until now.

Step forward Crazy Machines, a game that's already enjoyed a fair amount of success on the Wii and the DS (well not in the UK but in mainland Europe they've been gobbling it up apparently). Now the German developers have converted the game to the iPhone / iPod Touch and the results are quite pleasing.

The nutty professory who sets you each task gives you a collection of seemingly innocuous parts to string together in order to complete a puzzle, just like with The Incredible Machine. This time round though, physics is simulated in a far more realistic manner than the old PC title managed - so you do get to rely on kinetics and gravity a little bit more in order to achieve each goal.

You're given a set of tutorial missions to complete first, which will get you used to the slightly fiddly but functional placing and manipulation of objects such as cogs, platforms and wiring.

Working out what goes where is key to success in the game and also ends up being its Achilles heel in that for the first couple of dozen puzzles, there's really only one way to complete each level - and 9 times out of ten it's so blatantly obvious where things go that it all feels a little bit too easy.

Eventually though, the difficulty curve peaks a little and you start to discover puzzles with slightly more obscure solutions that can stretch your creativity a bit more.

In the game's main mode, the more "spare" parts you end up with at the end of a task will net you more of a score. Once you've solved a particular puzzle, you're shown the Professor's solution (and more often than not, you'll find his solution's exactly the same as your own because of the previously mentioned problems with the game's rigidity at first).

Kicking off a test of your machine means pressing the "play" button. Each event plays out like a mini version of that classic old board game "Mousetrap" and if you're successful, you'll get a big tick and you'll get to find out how close to the ideal solution you were (by playing the prof's suggested machine design at the end).

As levels progress, more and more complex layouts and machine parts are presented - with a lot more variety and trickiness only kicking in once you're adept with the basic bits. Everything from electricity-powered motors, windlass parts, pulleys, belts, cogs and explosives start to come into play with parts of the screen being blocked off from the placement of items, ramping up the challenge substantially.

DTP Entertainment have successfully updated a retro PC classic, and aren't taking the piss with the price either (It's 1.79 for UK Apps Store customers). With 50 levels to work through and over 70 different machine parts to play with, there's enough variety to keep you scratching your head at how you can out-do Wallace and Gromit by coming up with new ways to drop basketballs through hoops or make toast with nowt but a billiard ball, a toaster and a domino. Certainly one of the better physics-based puzzlers on the iPhone and definitely a nice complimentary title to drop on your device alongside Fantastic Contraption and Crayon Physics.
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