It’s been a fantastic Summer for the Xbox Live Arcade. With the likes of Bastion, From Dust, Ms. ‘Splosion Man and Toy Soldiers, there’s a little bit of downloadable brilliance for everyone. Is there room for a puzzle game like Crazy Machines Elements?
Close, but not quite.
To catch everyone up to speed, the Crazy Machines puzzle games are unique in that they take inanimate objects and arrange them so that the puzzle is solved when a specific goal is achieved through a Rube Goldberg-esque animation played out in front of the player. These goals might be something like getting a basketball through a hoop, knocking down a bowling pin, getting two mice into a house or getting Superman to punch the moon out of orbit.
Er……maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.
The “Elements” part of the title comes into play with certain objects with material properties. Wood burns, metal conducts electricity, water can freeze to create a wall, etc.
The game itself is broken up into three main modes. The first is Puzzle Mode, or as I’ve dubbed it, the tutorial.
Puzzle mode presents the player with a puzzle with a goal. Many of the parts of the puzzle are already in place, but some are missing. If players start the machine things will fall out of place and be either hilarious or embarrassing. Players are tasked with putting the remaining pieces into place, and accomplishing whatever goal they are tasked.
This would be great, if it weren’t typically painfully obvious where some pieces go. An early puzzle has a series of bowling balls rolling down a set of ramps in order to activate switches to release a balloon. The only pieces missing are two pieces of the ramps and one of the bowling balls. The puzzle relies almost entirely on someone simply overlooking the fact that there’s a gaping hole where the bowling balls need to roll past.
The puzzles do get a bit more difficult later on, but not always for the right reasons.
You see, each level in puzzle mode has a set of Nuts (jokes to yourselves please). Collecting all of these are the key to getting a good rating. Whereas a game like this screams for creativity in finding a solution, these Nuts make it so the player has to solve the puzzle a very certain way in order to get the highest score.
Isn’t this the very opposite of what puzzle games like this usually do? Scribblenauts on the DS, which had a similar game mechanic, rewarded players for being especially creative. It would have been much better to structure the game like that, and it would have added loads of replay value.
The game’s other two modes are much more enjoyable and addictive. The game’s Challenge mode is structured much the same that Puzzle mode is, except the level has been completely stripped of all but the most important parts.
It’s completely up to the player to make use of about 130 parts to get the job done, while keeping to a strict budget limiting the amount of objects the player can use. This is the bread and butter of the game, and the only reason I kept playing. It allows for the amount of freedom and creativity that Puzzle mode didn’t allow.
The final mode is a Creation mode. There are no goals here, but players can use any objects they’ve unlocked in the rest of the game to make whatever kind of gizmos they’d like. You can make something as simple as a timed fuse for a fireworks system, or something as difficult as a fully working Pachinko machine.
What the game lacks is that “Wow Factor.” To be fair, puzzle games come in two varieties: the hopelessly addictive kind like Peggle or Zuma, and the pass-the-time kind like Professor Layton. The game definitely fits into the latter, and as such, will probably only attract puzzle-heads who may already know about it.
In the end, Crazy Machines Elements remains an amusing game that has a few flaws, but overall fails to be a solid “gotta-have-it” staple to anyone’s Xbox Live library. Like a cool YouTube video your friend sends you over Facebook of a chain-reaction sequence, you can give it a try, but you won’t remember the game a year from now.
Crazy Machines Elements is a unique puzzler that does a good job of testing the creativity of the player, and providing some great "That was awesome" moments.