Review / Crazy Machines 2 Complete (PC)

To appreciate Crazy Machines 2 Complete, you must first understand the appeal of Rube Goldberg. You may not know Goldberg, or his creations, but you’ve most certainly seen his influence. Wallace and Gromit’s crackpot inventions, Marty McFly’s alarm clock, and that jaw-dropping Honda commercial from a few years back – all bear the man’s mark. If you love them, you love him, and you may just love this game too.

You see, CM2C is a kind of videogame pean to Goldbergian design, embracing the art of repairing ridiculously complicated machines to achieve simple tasks. In this world, if the basketball doesn’t go through the hoop without the help of cannons, giant springs and mannequins, then it just doesn’t count. If there’s a hair-brained inventor in you just bursting to get out, you’ll find much to love here.

Each level begins by introducing your objective and the items you’ll need to accomplish it. Early puzzles ease you into proceedings, introducing simple factors like gravity and cause-and-effect, but difficulty and complexity soon ramp up. As you progress, more items become available in your inventory, maxing out at a brain-bending 200 tools, each with their own internal logic. You’ve got rockets, balls, toy robots, gears, pulleys, levels, lasers, mirrors, bathtubs – you name it, it’s there. Successfully completing a level, especially later on in the game, demands a good understanding of all of these items, their properties and exactly how they interact with each other.

Adding another layer of depth is the necessary manipulation of your items. To get one item to interact with another in the correct fashion you will have to rotate, mirror or combine it before placement. Fail to get the correct positioning for that barrel, miss that link in the chain, and the whole thing falls apart. What’s more, you may also have to factor in what makes them work. So, toy robots need the button on their head depressed to get them going, boilers require gas pipes, light bulbs need electricity, floaty objects react to rising steam and so on. All in all it amounts to a whole bunch of head-scratching options.

There is a unique kind of glee when you finally nail that awkward puzzle. Setting your items up in just the right way and sitting back to watch the bonkers chain-reaction you laboured so long to perfect is immensely satisfying.

With this in mind, it’s just a shame that occasionally CM2C conspires to obscure its own qualities. Later solutions can be willfully obtuse, stretching the game’s Goldbergian design ethic just a bit too far. The interface isn’t ideal and the puzzle instructions, delivered by a zany Einstein-like chap, are often more perplexing than helpful. The voice-work is great, but some straight-forward, clearer instructions would have been preferable.

Of course, there are a limited number of hints and cheats available for when you get utterly stuck, but the real fun – and points – are to be had working it out yourself. When it goes right, you’ll feel like some kind of triumphant mix of The A-Team, Emmett Brown and Donatello out of the Turtles. It’s just a shame that the barriers to that experience aren’t all caused by the difficulty of the game itself.

Rounding things out is a sandbox mode allowing you to devise your own puzzles to post online. Beyond the obvious benefits of extra free-content, this addition has its own attractions. Sitting down and creating the most pointless, ridiculous, amusingly stupid machine – whether you intend to do anything with it or not – is a fun experience in its own right.

So this is a physics-based puzzler for the slightly deranged inventor in all of us, the perfect game for anyone who has ever dreamed of dropping a barrel onto a see-saw to fling a mannequin into the air, bounce it on to the head of robot, have that robot push a flame underneath the fuse of a cannon and blast a wall of wooden crates to tiny little pieces. Which is all of us really. Isn’t it?

+ Tons of truly brain bending puzzles
+ Massive selection of objects
+ Online content adds infinite bonus value

– Interface is a little lacking
– Puzzle instructions are not always clear
– Some solutions stretch the Goldergian concept to its limits