Review: Crazy Machines for iPhone

Tim Mercer
21 October, 2009
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App Guide

A few years back, Honda caused quite a stir with a TV ad for the Accord. The ad features the different parts of the automobile assembled into an elaborate contraption where the first element is set in motion to launch a chain reaction from one object to the next.

Clearly a lot of effort went into that Honda ad (and without any CGI involved, either). If you’ve ever felt the urge to build a Rube Goldberg machine of your own, perhaps it would just be easier to give Crazy Machines a try on your iPhone or iPod touch.

Machinations: Crazy Machines gives you a simple goal, but you’ve got to build a complex machine out of all kinds of objects to accomplish it.

The $3.99 app from DTP Entertainment is a challenging puzzle game requiring creative thinking and experimentation. A professor resembling Einstein sets up puzzles that you need to figure out. Each puzzle provides a simple goal—make a basketball drop into a basket or make a flower bloom by activating a light near it. Completing these simple task requires setting up a not-so-simple series of chain reactions using all kinds of objects.

For example, in one puzzle you have to hook up a power supply to generator which then turns a gear that you attach a drive belt to in order to turn a paddle that hits a ball, causing it to roll down a plank and into a basket. The farther along in the game you go, the more complicated the puzzles become, requiring increasingly elaborate contraptions.

To get you started, the professor walks you through a few basic tutorials that familiarise you with the controls and how to use objects. There are more than 50 different objects to use—gears, pulleys, wheels, lights, balloons, balls, fans, lasers, scissors, candles, bombs and many more. Each object does different things and it’s up to you to figure out how to effectively use them to solve the puzzle.

The professor sets up each puzzle with items already in place that cannot be moved. Each puzzle has a limited selection of objects you can use to complete the task; you access those object by tapping the gear button. Once you place an item, a circle of action buttons appear around it allowing you to rotate, move, flip, or otherwise manipulate the item.

This control scheme works well because your finger is not in the way, allowing you to see the item while moving it into place. A question mark button provides further assistance, telling you what the objects do. Once you have everything set up the way you like, just press the play button to let physics take over and see if your contraption works.

Crazy Machines uses a surprisingly accurate physics engine to determine how things play out. For instance, forces like gravity, wind, inertia, and friction all behave as they would in the real world. This makes it possible to intuitively envision how you might solve a puzzle. You can even build your own custom contraptions with access to all the items in the game in a freestyle experiment with endless possibilities. This option greatly increases the replay value of Crazy Machines.

The only real complaint I had was the lack of an auto-save function. If a call came in while I was in the middle of an experiment, I’d have to start from scratch. Overall, Crazy Machines offers loads of challenging puzzles that put your problem solving skills and creativity to the test.

[Tim Mercer is a technology enthusiast, graphic designer, and blogger, whose blog,, offers free resources to the digital artist and graphic designer.]

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