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Crazy Machines Complete is all about physics based puzzles. You have to set up various experiments using all sorts of tools. You place an odd collection of objects on the 2D environment and then run the experiment to see if it works. Events are overseen by a sarcastic old professor. The art style is basic but the puzzle game-play is really addictive. This release is actually three games in one; the original Crazy Machines and the two add on packs, Inventor’s Training Camp, and New from the Lab. There are literally hundreds of puzzles to solve and this is good educational fun.
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The game is obviously inspired by The Incredible Machine, which was all about stringing together collections of objects and machines to get a domino style effect. While few people would have the patience to set up such experiments in the real world, in a game it makes for a lot of fun and you don’t have to clear up any mess afterwards.
The action starts you off gently challenging you to place a wooden board in the right spot to make a ball land where the professor wants it. You pick up objects from a menu down the right hand side and place them out on the simple 2D board in front of you. They hang there suspended in time until you turn the switch at the bottom right of the HUD and start the experiment. As the puzzles get tougher, you can try things out to see what happens. If they fail, then flick the switch back to make adjustments and try again.
The game soon progresses to steam, with pipe connections to activate pistons and cogs and gears which need slotting together. Then there is electricity to deal with, explosives and fuses, balloons and magnets, conveyor belts and fireworks; the list of gadgets is endless. The puzzles get harder and harder and while some will take you a few seconds to solve, others can have you scratching your head in puzzlement and wishing for a hint system.
The professor guides you through the process and occasionally awards you certificates as a reward. He also chips in with the odd attempt at humor, and luckily you can turn him off in the options menu. Aside from the main game, you’ll find a lab where you can construct your own puzzles. If you have the patience and inclination, this could potentially extend the life of Crazy Machines infinitely.
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The visual style is cute and slightly cartoon. The environments are basic and the objects are mostly recognizable as what they are supposed to be. Luckily there is a tool tip system, so you can hover over things to get a small blurb on their purpose. The contraptions you construct are well animated and the engine obviously has a good physics system at its core. The only character to speak of is the professor himself and he is a basic model. He looks like a typical Einstein clone with white hair and mustache, and he frequently pops up in the top left of the screen to comment on your progress.
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The music is unobtrusive and makes for adequate background noise. The sound effects are accurate enough. and the only aspect that really stands out is the grating voice of the professor. His voiceover lines are probably supposed to be humorous, but they fail to even raise a smile and the repetition means they get tired fast. Luckily you can turn him down or off completely in the options menu.
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This is an old game and there is nothing going on here to tax your machine. The system requirements are extremely basic and all you’ll need is Windows XP or Vista, 800MHz processor, 128MB RAM, 200MB of hard drive space and a graphics card that supports DirectX 9. It runs perfectly without a hitch on older machines, and the only problem I encountered was its reluctance to ALT-TAB.
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Crazy Machines Complete is an inventive puzzle game, and it encourages you to be inventive as well. The graphics and sound are basic, but the design is strong and the engine is solid. The amount of content is impressive and the ability to make your own puzzles is a great feature. This is suitable for the whole family and it works well as a group effort. It is definitely suitable for kids, but they might need a bit of help with some of the later puzzles - to be honest I need a bit of help with some of the later puzzles. It is available at a budget price, and thanks to some clever design, this is enjoyable and challenging. For puzzle junkies it is an essential purchase.