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

Crazy Machines 2

Crazy Machines 2

Fall 2008 Software
Ages: 9 & Up
Producer: Viva Media
Price: $19.99
Here come the Rube Goldberg-like inventions again. The essence of this sequel to Crazy Machines and heir apparent to the '90s Incredible-Machines series? How convoluted and complex a machine we can create using oddball stuff to accomplish an otherwise simple task.

The only problem is that for an imagination-stoking, brain-teasing game, this incarnation brings little that's new to the table. Sure, there are lots of new off-the-wall contraption puzzles to solve, some better-than-before graphics (though relatively speaking modest at best), and a tweaked physics engine that gives objects even more realistic bounce, fall, applied pressure, roll, etc. There are even a few new objects in the inventor's inventory to go along with the usual variety of balls, balloons, boxes, gears, pulleys, dominoes, conveyor belts, catapults, pipes and widgets. Pretty much the same old power sources, however-steam, electricity, fire, etc.

As easy as these mechanical challenges start off, they progressively get harder-almost frustratingly so. The tasks basically require players to assemble a variety of objects against a wall to produce the desires result. Like, where do we position three catapults, two springboards, four pipes and three ramps to get a marble to go from the top of the wall into the basket below?

Not to worry--there are multiple levels of cheats and clues to get you past the impossible puzzle, including some basic text clues, some visual hints that reveal elements of the finished puzzle, and ultimately an I-Give-Up button that lets you move on. But depending too much on cheats undermines the best aspect of this game-the feeling of achievement when you finally beat a really tough puzzle.

The most inventive players can switch off the puzzles (and, happily, that cartoonish Einstein-like professor who babbles unconstructively through most of the game) and head to the free-style, do-it-yourself sandbox mode to create their own weirdo machines. They can post their best on the Crazy Machines website for other players to solve.

Still, this is not blow-away new. But for tinkerers, brainstormers, experimenters and wannabe inventors, these nearly 200 different machinery puzzles make a deep-thinking, problem-solving, educational game that can quickly become addictive.

Don Oldenburg   ©2008 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.

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