|Publisher: Viva Media Genre: Edutainment|
|Min OS X: 10.4|
Most people know what a Rube Goldberg device is. Named for the famed cartoonist, a Rube Goldberg device is a machine of exceeding complexity whose sole purpose is to perform a single, usually mundane task. Whether it is slicing bread or retrieving the mail, the charm of a Rube Goldberg device is not in the service it performs, but in the creativity put into the delivery.
One of the most famous examples of a Rube Goldberg device is the classic board game Mouse Trap. During the game, players construct a mechanism that, through such actions as catapulting a toy soldier into a cup and a marble slowly following a twisting track to its bottom, finally triggers a net that captures the unsuspecting players' mouse. Other famous Rube Goldberg devices include Pee Wee's breakfast machine in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, and many of Wallace and Gromit's devices seen in their short films and the Oscar-winning feature film Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
As much fun as it is to watch these mechanisms do their thing, it's even more fun to build them. There have been games in the past that have made this a possibility, such as the Incredible Machine series of games from Sierra Online. One of the latest entries into this austere line-up of mechanized mayhem is a fun puzzler entitled Crazy Machines, from developer FAKT and publisher Pepper Games. The developers have done an excellent job of capturing what made the Incredible Machine games fun, while raising the quality levels of the game to modern standards.
The concept behind Crazy Machines is simple: take an incomplete experiment, a number of extra parts, and try to complete it in the shortest time possible. This seems simple at first, but soon the challenges become quite complex, sometimes requiring a number of tries to get right. An example of what you might find in a "typical" experiment would go something like this: you are presented in the experiment wall with a number of dominos stacked on descending platforms. At the bottom is a ball that needs to be pushed into a pail. At the top is a bowling ball on a slanted platform. Your extra parts are a number of dominos. The best way of determining what needs to be done is to throw the switch and run the experiment without adding any parts. As the bowling ball rolls and knocks down the first domino, we soon find out that some of the dominos are spaced too far apart, and the domino chain-reaction falls apart. It then becomes clear what needs to be done. Placing dominos in the large spaces between dominos allows the chain reaction to complete to the bottom of the screen, with the last domino knocking the ball into the pail. Of course, many of the experiments are far more involved, and take into account not only collision physics, but such scientific concepts as thermodynamics and mechanics.
The game starts off simply, presenting a series of experiments which basically allow you to familiarize yourself with the different concepts of the game, as well as the different specialized parts to be used in future experiments. While this is an excellent way to introduce new players to this style of game, it may get a bit old for more seasoned gamers. An option to skip the tutorial levels would not have gone amiss.