Crazy Machines isn't a particularly original game--there have been many other PC puzzlers in the past that have involved convoluted contraptions. But those who enjoy brain benders and creating Rube Goldberg-like machinery will certainly appreciate this game anyway. The game offers more than 200 different puzzles, as well as a sandbox mode to keep wannabe inventors busy for quite a while.
The game's interface is clean and sleek. You'll see the work space prominently displayed in the center, containing fixed elements of the experiment already in place. The items you have to work with are listed in a sidebar to the right--you can conveniently click and drag them to where they need to go. There are also a few buttons in the bottom right corner, which are used for basic tasks like resetting the lab setup or starting and stopping the action. Many items need to be rotated or turned, which is done by hovering the mouse pointer over the item and selecting the option from the quick menu. If you ever forget the function of a certain piece, hovering over that item in the sidebar will bring up its description.
There are dozens of different pieces, all having unique properties. The game includes various types of power sources, balls, wires, balloons, gears, conveyor belts, boxes, catapults, pipes, widgets, and other knickknacks that you'd expect to find in a crazy inventor's lab. You'll even find unusual items like steam pistons, working blimps, cannons, dynamite, and robots, all of which help to make complicated work out of simple tasks. What's most impressive, though, is how the game seems to incorporate logical physics into its experimental setups. Allow a balloon to drift too close to an open flame, and it will pop. Heat up a boiler, and it will provide power to turn a steam piston. Different types of balls will have different properties that reflect their weight and elasticity--tennis balls, for example, bounce high but don't have the same force in a collision as billiard balls. The point is that the game allows you to use common sense as you try to solve the puzzles it throws at you.
Crazy Machines starts off with very simple setups, effectively teaching you how to use the various bits of machinery through the first couple of dozen experiments. As you make your way down the list, you'll be asked to do progressively more difficult tasks. It's in these scenarios that the game is at its best--a handful of fixed elements on the work space and a lot of pieces to place. In many cases, you may not have to use all the pieces at your disposal to do the job--the extra pieces are just there to throw you off. Solving the challenges can be rewarding. If there's anything disappointing about the game's more than 200 different puzzles, though, it's that even later on, there are too many puzzles that are overly simplistic, requiring you to only place two or three elements down in obvious spots. It is possible that these are meant to offer a sense of accomplishment after seeing a string of real troublesome puzzles. For those who are more experienced with these types of games, however, the simple puzzles later on feel a little too much like filler. Two hundred puzzles will still keep you busy for a while, and there's even a sandbox mode for you to design your own experiments.
As you'd expect from a puzzle game such as this, the graphics and sound aren't exactly cutting edge. They're good enough that they don't detract at all from the gameplay, though. Crazy Machines' interface has a metal workshop motif that ties in thematically with the rest of the game. You will also find nice fire and electrical effects from laboratory pieces. Also, the game plays just fine in a window, which makes it perfect to tinker around with while you're doing other tasks on your computer. There are only three musical tracks in the game--all of which are low key and soothing to encourage thinking--but you can opt to pipe in music from your PC's optical disc drive if you so desire. The sound effects from the experiments are also generally decent--it's obvious that they took sound samples from bouncing balls and such.
While Crazy Machines doesn't take many chances or do anything we haven't already seen in a wacky invention game, it does offer a lot of content and puzzles. The interface is good enough that it never gets in your way, and the game is often challenging enough to satisfy, but not frustrate you. If you enjoy the puzzle genre, then Crazy Machines is definitely worth a look.