Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Crazy Machines 1.5: More Gizmos, Gadgets & Whatchamacallits

Crazy Machines 1.5: More Gizmos, Gadgets & Whatchamacallits

Fall 2007 Software
Ages: 7 & Up
Publisher: Viva Media
Price: $19.99
Platform: Windows

If contraptions are your kids' idea of a good time, this quality puzzle-thinking game will keep them busy for days, maybe weeks. Or, they may just find a new and exciting fascination in tinkering with simple virtual machines.

This latest version of the award-winning Crazy Machines series challenges players to solve increasingly more difficult mechanical puzzles by dragging parts into the puzzle area to make it work. While the challenges are wacky enough to be funny and fun for kids (basketballs dropping through trap doors onto bellows that blow a tennis ball off a platform triggering a match to light a canon-that sort of gizmo-mania), imbedded in all that wonderful silliness are the basics of the serious science of the physical and mechanical world.

This version of Crazy Machines starts off with the "Inventor's Training Camp," where easy-listening music is the soundtrack for practicing the mechanical thinking and analytical skills needed for the more complex experiments in the main "New From the Lab" section (each accessed separately via their own start-page icon). The 100 or so new main experiments resemble those of past titles in the series, but look sharper than ever and add lots of new devices-from mechanical creatures and timer switches to phonographs and bottle rockets. So veteran players can still get a kick out of this new title.

What makes the game exceptional is that it is pure problem-solving science-using all sorts of mechanical devices plus other elements such as gravity, electricity, fire, light, even wind. And it teaches kids about precision-that a small variation in science can make a big difference. Options include creating your own puzzles from scratch and, thankfully, turning on or off "the Professor," an animated pop-up character whose encouragement, teasing, hints, and warnings are helpful but can get tedious. Plus, there's usually more than one way to solve each puzzle giving players room for unlimited exploration. Players do get bonus points for creativity and quickness.

One warning: This game is pretty demanding not only on brain power but on computer assets. It requires a 800 MHz CPU, at least 128 MB RAM and a Direct X compatible graphics card with 32 MB RAM, not to mention 100 MB available on your hard drive. All of which simply means your computer better be packing some power and memory.

Don Oldenburg   ©2007 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Viva Media
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers

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