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'Machines' Is Up To the Challenge

"Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions" is inventive. (Viva Media)

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Those of you who have ever played a game of mousetrap, in which you build a complex series of odd components to perform a simple action, will understand the concept of "Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions Game."

The game is divided into challenges, with each successive one either introducing a new concept or being slightly harder than the previous level. This lets you avoid dealing with new components without first learning how to use them.

Your first challenge is simply to get a bunch of basketballs into a box. Each level has a central work area, which follows real physics laws, so the basketballs, which start out hanging in midair, will drop at a constant rate because of gravity. Along the side of the screen are components you can use to complete the challenge. For the basketballs, you just need to position some boards correctly so the balls bounce into the box.

The physics is pretty amazing. A basketball, for example, will bounce differently than a tennis or billiard ball. You can use fire to heat boilers to produce steam, which can be piped across your workspace to power cranks or generators. These can be used to move conveyor belts, power fans or detonate explosives.

Usually you are provided with the exact number of components needed to solve the puzzle. But sometimes, if you're really creative, you can complete the level and have components left over, which gives you a scoring bonus.

The components include magnets, flying blimps and even little single-minded robots. Should you solve all 200 puzzles and want more, a sandbox mode lets you create your own challenges. You can upload these to the Internet to test someone else's mettle. Of course, you can download diabolical user-created puzzles as well.

The game is suitable for ages 8 and older, though younger players will probably need parental help at the higher levels. The game comes on a hybrid CD that works on PCs and Macs.

-- John Breeden II

Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions Game Everyone, PC (Windows 98/2000/Me/XP), Mac (OSX 10.3 or higher) ($20) Viva Media


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