When the Crazy Machines 1.5 CD box arrived in my office, I was very pleased to see it. It and all its zany predecessors have always been some of my very favorite pieces of software over the years. To tell you the truth, though, at first I didn't feel any great urgency to review it. I thought to myself - "everyone already knows about these great puzzles to be solved lining up gadgets, gizmos and whatchamacallits."
Wrong! Almost the next day my son came home relating an activity at school where they were physically trying to build some "Rube Goldberg" style devices and when he remarked to the other kids that this was just like " the software programs" nobody knew what he was talking about. So this review is my attempt to wake up the world once again to the wonderful and wacky world of Crazy Machines 1.5 now in its latest version from Viva Media.
Ok for those of you who somehow never encountered this genre of software, the premise is pretty straightforward and kids 8 and up will pick up on it immediately. Players are given one of 200 puzzles to work out - like knocking over a domino sitting amid a seemingly random set of balls, ramps and bellows or lighting a light bulb with two cannons. Besides knowing the challenge, players are also given a starting mechanism to work into the puzzle, such as a large metal ball falling down in a somewhat predictable manner or cannons that are set at specific angles that fire when you turn your machine "on" using the on screen switch. It's then your job to figure out how to use the additional tools you are given to accomplish the task.
But the tools in this game are anything but ordinary. You may be given additional ramps and bellows that you can move around just about any way you want so you can blow the domino down or you might get to use a bottle rocket, cannon, bomb, funky toaster or programmable robot to do the trick. This is one game where failing is almost as fun as succeeding because when you turn the puzzle "on" you never know what might happen, often with hysterical results. But if you want to get on with the game and tackle more complicated puzzles, you have to figure out how to use the tools you have been given.
This set of conundrums may sound a little complicated but once you get the hang of it, it's highly addictive. You just can't wait to see what happens when you turn "on" the switch to witness what you have wrought. For younger kids, and for those of us who need a little practice and time to get in the groove to solve these puzzle, the software also features an "Inventor's Training Camp" where you can start with some 100 easier puzzles and are tutored about how all the features of the game work. You also get some valuable insight into how all the individual tools function when you take the time to do some puzzles in the "camp."
This is the kind of software you may just want to buy ahead and have around to pull out on a rainy day this summer or for any other kind of "down" time. The is also "feel good" software for both parents and kids as you'll have peace of mind knowing that your kids will be stretching their imaginations, honing their problem solving skills and even acquiring an understanding of how simple machines work while still having fun being "inventors". In other words, constructive amusement time on the computer.
Crazy Machines 1.5
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista (Also runs on a Macintosh computer running Windows XP)
ERSB Rating : E for Everyone