You know that old writers contrivance of starting an essay or article with a dictionary definition? Could anything be more clichéd? Well…
Rube Goldberg (rüb-gōl(d)-bərg): accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply
Of course, these days we have even more technology to enable ever more clichéd writing practice, such as Wikipedia:
A Rube Goldberg machine is an extremely complicated apparatus that performs a very simple, easy task in an indirect and convoluted way. Some examples of his machines have an anticipation factor, as the machine makes slow but steady progress toward its goal.
Now being as Rube’s drawings of complex machines and convoluted processes were drawn in the 1040’s when non-interactive newsprint was the communication medium of the day, the Rude Goldberg “machines” were already put together and complete for the reader to marvel at. Interesting, yes, but only involving the reader for as long as it took to follow the inanimate chain of events and marvel at the creativity of the artist.
Now that we have interactive everything through the miracle of the computer, we can go one step further than Mr. Goldberg could ever have imagined. These days, we can put the machines together ourselves. Well, virtually at least. Viva Media, in conjunction with the fine folks at nVidia, have encapsulated the spirit (if not the IP rights) of Rube Goldberg’s complex and completely impractical machines in Crazy Machines 2, with the welcome addition of puzzle solving component.
Guided by an Einsteinesque professor, Crazy Machines presents you with a simple problem to be solved (cook a hot dog, pop a balloon) and a collection of pieces-parts to use to create a machine to do it. The components of the machine can take the form of ramps, springs, steam engines, electrical devices, gears, belts, and a large collection of other mechanical means of converting and directing raw energy into useful motion.
For any given task, you will be provided with a collection of items that will assemble into a machine that will not only perform the assigned primary task, but will also serve to accomplish one or more secondary tasks. It is possible to arrive at a solution that does not utilize every tool in the box, but for the most part you will use every provided widget in your solution. As you assemble your machine, you can test your progress at any time. Be careful, though. One of my pet peeves about how Crazy Machines works is that if your test actually accomplishes the primary goal, you’re done. You can’t go back and make modifications or additions that will solve the secondary tasks. I got caught by that little annoyance time and time again.
Absent that little issue, I found the puzzles to be very entertaining, and with me being one of those folks that enjoys putting mechanical things together, the combination of creating interacting mechanical pieces into the solution for a puzzle was a great fit. There are 100+ puzzles to be solved, providing hours of entertainment. If you happen to own a PhysX board, there is another collection of puzzles available, but I didn’t see any discernable difference between those and the non-PhysX puzzles. Once you’ve run through the provided puzzles, you can either create your own or download puzzles created by other users. Yours can be uploaded for others to download too if you’re the giving-back-to-society type.
Crazy Machines 2 fits into an interesting niche in the gaming market in that it is not designed to appeal to any given age group. Rather, it will appeal to a specific type of person. If you can see the appeal of Legos or if you enjoy building working models, you’re probably in the target group for a game like this. It will fill those idle times of your day that are too short to go to your shop and work on whatever contraption is currently under construction, but too long to fill with a mindless sitcom on TV.