Soup to Nuts.
Usually, when people discover that I find math and physics problems to be fun, they conclude that I am either insane or an incredible nerd. Take your pick.
Crazy Machines 2 is, at its core, a collection of physics problems represented visually. If one can call a course of physics problems a game, then Crazy Machines 2 is indeed a game. I guess it’s a puzzle game? Regardless, it’s almost the physics puzzle title of my dreams.
The game is played along a wall, making the game effectively 2D despite its 3D engine underpinnings. A given puzzle will have a set-up prepared already, and after a quick intro you’re left to position and rotate objects in whatever order and location you like. When you’re ready to see if your solution works, you simply hit the ‘Go’ button in the bottom right corner, and you watch the experiment go.
Some interesting topics are covered, and in delightful ways. Electricity and wiring are represented, with some basic switches thrown in. Steam power and various heat sources come into play, so you can get creative with how you heat your water. Vented steam can also push floatier objects around. Darts and crossbows can break balloons; see-saws can be used as simple catapults, and can be made on the fly by stacking boards on boxes.
Novitas has crafted a puzzler chock full of tools (hundreds of them) with their own entirely logical properties - conveyor belts, chains, ropes, electrical wiring, lasers, lightning, rockets, springs, gears, pulleys, balloons, levers, weights, scales, and even bathtubs. Managing their behavior is key and requires far more creativity than you might realize. While the early puzzles typically only have one or two solutions, as you open up more tools and take on more complex puzzles, the game becomes quite open and diverse. With 200 puzzles to work through, there’s plenty to do and plenty to try.
There’s also a sandbox mode, as well as a mode where you can create your own puzzles and publish them online for others to solve. Folks have already come up with some real stumpers, though of course the majority are fairly obvious. It’s genuinely entertaining to just sit down and put together parts until you have a machina infernala that does something simple in an extremely complex and amusing way.
The game is presented in a mish-mash of '50s flare with cartoony idealizations of the scientific personality. An Einstein-esque professor guides you through the game, setting up each puzzle’s goals. He comes off sort of goofy, and the graphics and music reinforce this. A haphazard Big Band tune during the tutorial, and Breakfast Machine-like music in the later game keep this notion of Rube Goldbergian machines throughout.
The game is not all sunshine and roses, though. The interface can get in the way at times, and it’s hard to determine where some objects link together. The music gets repetitive fairly early, as each track is roughly a minute, but ends up being used in 20 puzzles or so. The game lacks any sort of planning mode or useful mensuration tool, so doing any forward planning for the puzzles is essentially mental mathematics. Beside the fact that this misses the ability for the game to work as a teaching aide, it also makes reviewing your puzzle solutions later to find improvements impossible. You have to start from scratch every time, and that chips off the replay value, especially for the more irritating puzzles.
Overall, I can easily recommend Crazy Machines 2 to parents, physics geeks, folks who enjoy intellectual challenges, and my fellow asylum refugees.