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September 2008 Archives


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (194 votes)
Comments (49) | Views (6,097)

PsychotronicDogfight 2Dogfight 2 is the newest entry into Rock Solid Arcade's quality series of arcade-style airplane fliers, which includes the first Dogfight and the previously-reviewed Stunt Pilot. Once again, they have based some nail-bitingly tough levels around the tricky but satisfying flight controls from classic DOS game Sopwith. The [right] arrow key always rotates you clockwise, and the [left] arrow key always counter-clockwise, no matter which direction your little biplane is facing. That—plus your plane's momentum—will keep you busy just trying to avoid the cold hard embrace of the ground, never mind that you're being shot at by giant dirigibles. Fire back with your machine gun by holding the [space] bar, and drop bombs with [ctrl]. Amusingly, you can bomb the other planes (and in fact must do so on a couple of levels), but your bombs are limited, depending on the specific mission. Don't waste them on planes if you still need to take out a hangar or two.

Rock Solid Arcade still has some of the highest production values of anyone working in Flash. I feel like Dogfight 2 could use a dramatic story line to accompany its gorgeous settings, but there's already plenty of drama in the details. Bullet holes appear in blimps as you pepper them, smoke trails follow wounded planes, enemy Ace Pilots tilt their wings believably as they kill you over and over and over again.

Oh by the way, this is a difficult game; partly because it will take a while to really get the controls into your fingers (unless you were some kind of Sopwith Ninja), partly because the opposing firepower is usually overwhelming, and partly because the only advantage you get is so odd. On every level, you get to use four Ace Tactics, which are like game show Lifelines for fighter pilots. Do an uninterrupted loop, for example, and you activate the Evasive Loop Tactic; little question marks appear over the enemy planes as they stumble around randomly, cowed into confusion by your sheer daredevilry. The respite won't last long, however, so you'll have to pull off some other maneuver, such as flying behind a cloud, if you want to prolong the chaos.

Dogfight 2Rock Solid Arcade can't seem to quite hit the difficulty sweet spot. Their otherwise amazing Robokill had almost no penalty for dying, but here we're well into frustrating territory. You have a limited number of lives, and continue points are set every five levels. Since some missions require near-perfection, and you may have no idea what strategy you'll need until you're already hip-deep in enemy bombers, you'll almost certainly get bumped back a few times. I managed to persevere, on the strength of the solid controls and a nice variety of missions, but I can't blame you if you give up after the first couple of set-backs. It's straight arcade-style gaming in a venue with no quarters—it doesn't make a lot of sense, really, but it does give you a meaty challenge, if meat is your cup of tea.

The way Dogfight 2 is balanced, you can't really force your way through, no matter your skill. You have to employ the Ace Tactics. Your success will often hinge on your ability to chain your Tactics together without wasting them or inadvertently misjudging them and smacking into the dirt. Most of my deaths, in fact, resulted from an ill-timed Ground Dive, which may mean that the game isn't so hard after all, and I just shouldn't pursue a career as an aviator.

If you do have the piloting chops, there's a broad selection of high-scoring possibilities. The most important strategy is simply not dying, but everything from bombing optional targets to shooting down enemy pilots as they parachute to safety (which seems incredibly unsportsmanlike) has a score attached. You can even maximize your points for individual kills by machine-gunning the dickens out of a plane as it goes down. While screaming "Take that, Red Baron!" of course.

Play Dogfight 2: The Great War


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (266 votes)
Comments (158) | Views (4,818)

Ms.45Matt Sandorf: Journey to Endless EntertainmentMatt Sandorf: Journey to Endless Entertainment is not just an artistic point-and-click game. It is a *sniff* advergame — a promotion for the Sony empire from music to gadgets to games. It was created by Rabbit Tell (Rodrigo Roesler and Bruno Maestrini), creators of the very popular Trapped series of games, and this one follows similar construction.

Now, advergames aren't automatically evil — remember Honda's gorgeous little Grrr game a few years back? — and Journey to Endless Entertainment is particularly well-executed, with surprising breaks through the fourth wall that I've never seen in a game before. The artwork varies between cute Lego scenery for the gameplay and charcoal drawings for the cutscenes.

I have to confess, though — it's difficult. I wasn't able to get through it without some help. Thankfully, you can save your game and reload if things just aren't making sense. It is definitely possible for you to paint yourself into a corner, so do save your game often!

What compelled me to keep playing was the jokes — if you liked Ben There, Dan That! but thought that some of the humor was just unnecessary, MS: JTEE offers a more G-rated experience but with somewhat less logical puzzles. You'll keep playing just to work out what you're supposed to do with a naked hamster.

In the meantime, I've given the genius everything except the immortal frog. Won't you help a poor JIG reviewer out?

Play Matt Sandorf: Journey to Endless Entertainment


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (61 votes)
Comments (35) | Views (1,283)

japanesemapgame.gifArtbegottiYou can't see it, but I'm holding a jar of jelly beans. When someone is sitting next to a jar of jelly beans with some slips of paper, you know what your task is... You want to get a running start and swipe the jar of jelly beans as fast as you can and hope you can get away with it. Because let's face it, actually guessing the number of jelly beans is pretty much impossible, unless you have the ability to freeze time and count the jelly beans one by one and then get them back in the jar before everything returns to normal speed.

For some, estimation of obscure objects is a pain. Nekogames, on the other hand, has come up with a little estimation game that brims with excitement. Due to my lack of ability to read Japanese, we'll call it the Japanese Map Game. (If anyone can offer a translation of the title, we'd be glad to hear it.)

You are presented with a pixel-art map of Japan on the left. Mousing over the map highlights the regions of Japan (with a cheery pronounciation of each). On the right is a grid of boxes, with some highlighted in blue. The object of each round is to pick a region on the map (or combination of regions) and try to fill in the blue boxes so that you land within the rainbow-bordered boxes. The size of the region that you select will determine how many boxes get filled. If your total lands in the green boxes, you move on to the next level, but landing in the yellow, orange, and red boxes also gets you some bonus points.

My strongest word of caution for this game: It is highly unlikely that you will win a round on your first attempt. Part of this game is experimenting with the sizes of the regions and how many boxes they fill in. Within your first few tries, you'll have a good idea what regions to pick to fill in the grid. Just remember, the regions you use become unavailable for the rest of the game.

Analysis: For such a simple concept, you'd be surprised how quickly you may be drawn into the game's happy and exciting atmosphere. As you mouse over the territories, you have all the time in the world to make your selection, but you still get a rush of nervous excitement when the blue blocks are filling up, not looking like they'll ever stop. Nekogames has taken such a simple concept as "come as close as you can without going over" and made a quirky little game out of it, and you might even learn something about Japan's geography from it too!

So if you're ready for a bit of jelly bean culture shock, hajime!

Play Japanese Map Game


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Weekend Download

JohnBMore games to make you scratch your head, this bonus edition of Weekend Download features a few titles that caught my eye in one way or another. I especially enjoyed G2: Geeks Unleashed, not only for its corny references (every one of which I understood!), but for its unique strategy/puzzle gameplay.

g2geeksunleashed.jpgG2: Geeks Unleashed (Windows, 15MB, demo) - Ready for a cheesy puzzle game laden with sci-fi and geek pop culture references? Sure you are! Battle geeky opponents in a puzzle-based collection game where you try and grab item tiles to complete sets and win the match. The catch is that each player takes turns picking items, so depending on where you took your last tile, your opponent may get a better or worse hand. Do you play for your own inventory or set out to deny your opponent his loot? Sometimes the dialogue is a bit over the top and stereotypical, but the gameplay is unique and filled with subtle strategy you learn as you progress. Several gameplay modes add plenty of variety.

scrapbookpaige.jpgScrapbook Paige (Windows, 105MB, demo) - A hidden object game that doesn't try to justify the fact that it's a hidden object game! Paige runs a scrapbook store and needs your help finding lists of items amongst the shelves and drawers. Grab a magnifying glass and take a look at countless sets of stickers, buttons, and more craft objects than you thought could be packed into a single screen. It's something a little different for hidden object fans, and scrapbook enthusiasts will appreciate the chance to do their craft even while on the computer.

hiddenobjectshowseason2.jpgThe Hidden Object Show: Season 2 (Mac/Windows, 93MB, demo) - Set in a carnival, this game doesn't try and mask its genre and drops you in the contestant's chair where you compete in various hidden object challenges. Set in a carnival, finding items earns you tickets that can be redeemed for prizes (gigantic stuffed animal, anyone?). The dozen or so minigames are unique and terribly fun, worth the price of admission alone. The biggest draw to this game is its massive length, over 300 rounds in all, three times as many as the original game. That's a lot of pixel scrutinizing.


Comments (15) | Views (956)

Weekend Download

JohnBTwo really fascinating blasts from (or to) the past this week: The Lost Snowmen, which spiritually resurrects one of my favorite games from the 90s, The Lost Vikings (link leads to a severely downscaled online demo), and Cavern of Doom, which takes pixelated graphics to an almost painful extreme.

mysterychronicles.jpgMystery Chronicles - Murder Among Friends (Mac/Windows, 50MB, demo) - Hidden object games are everywhere these days, and it seems like every developer is trying to out do the next by spicing up its item finding with one strange gimmick or another. Mystery Chronicles sticks to its guns and goes the old-fashioned route with a remarkably rich atmosphere and classic murder mystery storyline. Item hunting is fairly straightforward, the minigames aren't overdone, and the developer spent a lot of time making sure everything made sense in context of the whole experience. What it lacks in originality and gameplay variety it makes up in setting and story.

lostsnowmen.jpgThe Lost Snowmen (Windows, 25MB, free) - Remember The Lost Vikings? If not, you missed out on one of the best 2D puzzle platform games of the last 3,000 years. Seriously! The Lost Snowmen looks to continue the genre and puts you in control of three snowmen, each with unique abilities. Work together to solve puzzles and traverse the snowy landscape.

cavernofdoom.gifCavern of Doom (Windows, 2.3MB, free) - Thou art Mo the Great! Hero of many a heroic deed, slayer of many a not so heroic thing! Cavern of Doom drops you in the most retro of retro settings and sets you to the task of delving deep below the dungeons of thy town in search of loot. And if you sit really far away from your computer, the images almost look good!

goban.jpgGoban (Mac, 10MB, free) - An elegant and simple implementation of Go for Mac users. Play against the computer for a single player challenge, or hop on the internet to challenge people from around the world. You can even observe pro (and amateur) games on the Internet Go Server.


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (9) | Views (1,927)

Jump Jump Jelly Reactor

JohnBJump Jump Jelly Reactor is a matching puzzle game that isn't afraid to try out new ideas. Instead of flat and boring blocks, tiles or even gems, this game fills your screen with lively jellies that can be combined to form larger characters with brand new properties. Gameplay is a unique combination of strategy and puzzle matching that extends a good variety of tasks your way. It's rare that a matching game really catches my eye, but Jump Jump Jelly Reactor provides such a full experience, it's hard to pass up.

jumpjumpjellyreactor.jpgThe same basic mechanics prevail in Jump Jump Jelly Reactor's multiple gameplay modes. The screen is filled with jellies of many colors, all sitting peacefully above tubes that lead to the reactor on either side of the grid. Using the mouse, drag like-colored jellies to combine them and form bigger jellies. Get more than three together and the jelly drops, splattering every blob beneath it and netting you a handful of points. You can strategically place larger jellies beneath falling jellies to create splash damage that will splatter and pop jellies in neighboring columns. That simple mechanic creates a whole world of gameplay strategy you'll quickly learn to master.

Jump Jump Jelly Reactor takes this fun base mechanic and goes crazy with it. Four modes of play are available, all unlockable using coins you win by completing levels from the Jellytown map screen. You start off with Arcade mode, your basic game type where you'll probably spend most of your time. Here you must protect the jelly reactor from the grumpy Rockons, sturdy little characters who, upon reaching the tubes at the bottom of the screen, will stack up and eventually end your game by breaking the reactor. Dealing with these guys (who change in later levels and force you to deal with them in different ways) becomes a game of strategy, as you must try and keep them away from the bottom of the screen while making matches elsewhere to form a big jelly above them and smash them into pieces. You really have to use your head sometimes.

The other three modes, Karma, Factory, and Puzzle, offer interesting challenges when dealing with pesky Rockons becomes to much of a hassle. In Factory mode you must first restore power to the building by completing half a dozen tasks. These range from building giant jellies to dropping jellies down specific columns at the right time. After the factory is operational you repeat the process for each of the jelly colors. Karma mode goes on forever and saves your progress as you advance in levels, while Puzzle mode sends a number of jelly-based riddles to your screen.

jumpjumpjellyreactor2.jpgAnalysis: Jump Jump Jelly Reactor isn't your standard casual gaming experience, as it tries a lot of new things and gets them right every time. The game has an arcade feel to it (you know, the big machines that used to live in buildings called Arcades) with bouncey visuals and a soundtrack to match. Every ounce of its presentation is enjoyable, and I love the "filling" sound effect when you drop jellies down the tubes!

In Arcade mode the action gets a little tense in later levels when you're dealing with a handful of Rockons, some of which actually devour jellies beneath them, forcing you to act very quickly to send them packing. That was a little much for me and felt out of place in the game's otherwise smooth and relaxed page. Fortunately there's plenty of options in terms of gameplay modes to balance that out.

There really is a lot to Jump Jump Jelly Reactor, but its cute exterior combined with boxing it into the matching puzzle genre prevents most people from finding that out. Give it a play, however, and you'll discover loads of unlockables, simple but fun gameplay, and a surprisingly deep strategy that unfolds as you gain mastery over the jellies. I spent two hours playing the game the first time I got my hands on it, which is a rare thing indeed!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (48 votes)
Comments (12) | Views (2,039)

10 Gnomes #9

JayThere is something oddly compelling about gnomes. They are cute, mythical creatures that spark the chemistry in our brains that control imagination and curiosity. Perhaps that's why when someone hides a bunch of them within a series of interactive images we jump to task of finding every one of them. So, here we are with another installment of Mateusz Skutnik's original series of hidden object games and this time titled, 10 Gnomes: Chemistry, and you know what to do. Let the chemical reactions begin...

Play 10 Gnomes #9

If you enjoyed this, be sure to play all the 10 Gnomes games.


Comments (13) | Views (1,103)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBAs promised last week, I now present to you Link Dump Friday: IDUNNOWHATEVERLOL Edition! I apologize if a very light arcade/mouseplay feeling comes across when you play these games. Rest assured, however, that it's not a theme. Just a... flavor.

  • icon_ninjaglove.gifNinja Glove - I know you like the Four Second series of lightning-fast mini-games. Throw in a rock soundtrack and add some ninjas and you have Ninja Glove. And Ninja Glove = win.
  • icon_mk5.gifMk5 - Fun little arcade game where you pilot a flying robot around to collect energy pods and other bonus power-ups. Of course lasers just happen to appear to make your life more challenging.
  • icon_pixelshocktd2.gifPixelshocks' Tower Defense II - An isometric tower defense game that doesn't stray too far from the genre's established principals. The interface is a bit cluttered and complex, but the core TD gameplay is alive and well. Hopefully the music won't drive you too insane...
  • icon_clickfest3.gifClick Fest 3 - An actual click fest, as advertised! Choose the length of game you want to play, then click all the targets as quickly as you can. That's it! Enjoy! Have fun! Click lots!
  • icon_octapodi.gifOktapodi - A short, French-made animation that claimed "Best of Show Winner" at SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques). A comical tale about two little octopus friends and their escape from the grasps of a stubborn and determined restaurant cook.

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Rating: 3/5 (26 votes)
Comments (2) | Views (4,132)

JessLab EscapeLab Escape is definitely not suitable for your third grader's safety education class—unless, of course, he or she is destined for the mighty and terrible role of Escape Game Protagonist. In that case, the cavalier handling of sensitive, questionable chemicals is just fine! After all, we've used some pretty odd methods to get out of rooms in the past... why not take the more direct (and toxic) route?

This is certainly one of the more straightforward room escapes I've come across. Worry not about secret codes or enigmatic messages; Lab Escape just requires you to take stock of your surroundings and act accordingly. Sure, objects are stashed in strange places; besides that, however, the scenario is fairly realistic, if perhaps one not likely to be encountered in day to day life. This isn't a bad thing, however; it's kinda nice to take a break from more fantastical situations.

Lab Escape is truly bite-sized, and you'll probably find yourself finished with it in under 10 minutes (assuming some little detail doesn't trip you up). Aside from one somewhat unintuitive action, progress through the game is logical and straightforward. The graphics are nice enough, though I do wish that there was some sort of a soundtrack or music; it would have added a good deal to the ambiance, and in a game this simple and short "setting the mood" is quite important. Still, Lab Escape is certainly enjoyable...and anyways, who doesn't love messing around with dangerous chemicals?

Play Lab Escape


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
Comments (33) | Views (5,852)

JessRetro RoomMaybe it's that I was born in the mid-80's, but I don't find Retro Room to be all that, well, retro. Bright colors? Check. Funky decorations? Yep. But where are the lava lamps? The posters of Che Guevara and Jimi Hendrix? Honestly, the developers didn't do their research at all. Or, maybe, I've seen Austin Powers one too many times. Either way.

I really liked this game. In contrast to Lab Escape (which concentrates on a more realistic scenario), the situation in Retro Room is purely contrived; for some reason you can't remember how to leave your own office, and so must figure out codes, collect items, etc in order to open the ubiquitous locked door. The puzzles themselves are nicely modulated to be thought-provoking but not headache-inducing, occasionally challenging but not maddening (I particularly enjoyed one rather creative puzzle involving tetris-like blocks). Pixel-hunting, also, is blessedly absent. A quick note: in order to put objects away after clicking on them, press the space bar.

I do wish that the game had included some sort of music or soundtrack, but the graphics are well-designed and the overall package good enough to overlook such a minor flaw. Indeed, Retro Room is a near-ideal escape for a coffee break: easy enough to be finished quickly, interesting enough to engage (and perhaps revive?) the mind. Enjoy!

Play Retro Room


Views (1,049)

Weekday Escape

JessIt's funny, the human palate. Some days you might wish to be presented with the most exquisite dishes imaginable, medleys of tastes and textures refined and elevated into works of art. After a while, however, it just becomes too much, and it's more appealing to just flop down in front of the television with a bag of potato chips, maybe an extra-cheesy pizza for good measure (mmm).

And really, that's what this delectable duo is: delicious, unpretentious, snack-sized games just bursting with escapey goodness. Are they remarkable? Not really. Satisfying? Absolutely. And as a plus, they won't leave grease stains on your couch.

  • icon_retroroom.gifRetro Room - I really liked this game. The puzzles are nicely modulated to be thought-provoking but not headache-inducing, challenging but not maddening. The perfect escape for a coffee break: easy enough to be finished quickly, interesting enough to engage (and perhaps revive?) the mind.
  • icon_labescape.gifLab Escape - Worry not about secret codes or enigmatic messages; Lab Escape simply requires you to take stock of your surroundings and act accordingly. This isn't a bad thing, however; it's kinda nice to take a break from more fantastical situations.

Note: Comments are disabled for this entry, but you will find a place for comments on each game's review page.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (95 votes)
Comments (80) | Views (9,940)

JayT2B Escape 3Room escape fans will be pleased to learn of a brand new installment available to play in the T2B Escape series. The new game, T2B Escape 3, features similar artwork, some pixel hunting and the lack of any backstory as in previous games, but that shouldn't stop all the room escape fanatics from enjoying another T2B Escape experience. Go forth, point-and-click your mouse, and escape!

Play T2B Escape 3

Cheers to Eric for the link. =)


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Rating: 4.4/5 (224 votes)
Comments (41) | Views (5,638)

PsychotronicLoops of ZenWelcome to Loops of Zen. Here at Loops of Zen, your worries shall be forgotten. Nothing will threaten you at Loops of Zen. This is Loops of Zen. You don't need to win at Loops of Zen, but if you wish, you can ascend to higher and higher levels of complexity. This is Loops of Zen. Rotate pieces by clicking on them. When no more loose ends remain, you will enter a new realm of consciousness. That realm is a new level of Loops of Zen. There are 50 levels in Loops of Zen, but is it necessary to experience them all? That depends on you. This is Loops of Zen. Did you know that Loops of Zen is different every time you play? That may be the best thing about Loops of Zen. The best thing about Loops of Zen may also be the loops. Or the zen. Or the loops of zen. Welcome to Loops of Zen. This is Loops of Zen.

Play Loops of Zen


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Rating: 4.5/5 (227 votes)
Comments (102) | Views (14,135)

PsychotronicZ-RoxToday we have an extraordinary new puzzle game from Marco Arsenault, who is probably best known in the Flash world for the popular music sequencing toy Punk-o-Matic (language warning on that link). Z-Rox won't throw you into a mosh pit, but it will test your visualization skills over the course of 100 devilishly simple levels. Each one will show you something 2-dimensional—a letter, a number, a shape, a symbol—and your job is simply to name it. But you only get to see a 1-dimensional slice of the picture at a time, as though it were being scanned from top to bottom by a horizontal laser. You must form a complete mental image, based on your view through that 2-pixel-tall moving window. Some answers are a single keyboard character, while others require you to type out a full word.

The first 50 levels basically keep the training wheels on. You might hit a few bumps, but you can probably get past them using the time honored techniques of Walking Away From the Game for a While, and/or Shaking Your Hands Like There's Bugs On Them. It's the second 50 levels (the "extreme" levels, sigh) that will really test your sanity. You may need a pencil and paper, and possibly some Excedrin (or X-Hedr-N, as they say on the extreme streets of Extreme Town). Nevertheless, I encourage you to clear as many levels as you can before asking for help, because the sense of accomplishment for solving this one on your own is tremendous.

Analysis: Yes, yes, the title is silly. "Z-Rox" is what happens when a punk music fanatic invents a startlingly pure and original puzzle game concept, but just can't help topping it off with a creamy dollop of vanilla Xtreme-ness. But as the ducks say when they're feeling indifferent: "Queh." Very little could diminish the greatness of this game. Z-Rox grabs hold of the forgotten corners of your temporal cortex and wrings them out like used nappies. It's about as punk as a frontal lobotomy, but to be fair, frontal lobotomies are not entirely un-punk.

Z-Rox gives you good value, with several unlockable modes of play and an impeccable user interface. The unskippable and lengthy tutorial at the beginning is a little annoying, but you only have to watch it once in your life. Although it's a relatively short loop, the music by Josh Hunsaker does a good job assisting both your focus and your calm.

The big discovery for me is how beautiful letters can be when described in motion this way. Their slopes, their curves—it's like watching a kind of digital calligraphy. You can almost feel the letters being physically sculpted in your mind. It's an unusual sensation. Like I always say, really unique and well-executed games can give you something no other medium can.

Okay, okay, maybe Z-Rox is kind of extreme after all. If you need me, I'll be on my deck. And by "deck", I mean "skateboard". And by "skateboard", I mean "couch".

Play Z-Rox

Cheers to Cheryl, Michelle, and Vito for sending this one in! =)


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (97 votes)
Comments (63) | Views (9,545)

Crazy Machines

JoshReleased in 2005 by German game developers FAKT Software, Crazy Machines was a cult classic that just recently began to breach the barrier to "fan-favorite" status among casual gamers. Publicized mainly by word of mouth, this unique puzzle game staked its claim as the next-generation leap from The Incredible Machine, which reached its height of popularity almost a decade earlier. The common theme in both games is the use of Rube Goldberg-inspired machines and contraptions to solve a puzzle or obstacle in each level. What's that? Rube who, you ask? If your early childhood includes memories of playing the classic board game Mouse Trap, you're already familiar with the concept that bears his namesake: accomplishing the simplest of tasks (like dropping a cage on the floor) by using complex, over-elaborate contraptions and mechanisms in a obscenely indirect, unintuitive way.

crazymachinesCrazy Machines embraces the concept in a way it can be applied to a video game, just like the classic The Incredible Machine showcased a decade earlier. Although popular among puzzle-loving gamers, The Incredible Machine series was beginning to feel somewhat dated. Crazy Machines hoped to fill that void with better graphics, emulated 3D levels and a prettier UI. Today, Crazy Machines is finally starting to get the recognition that a lot of fans feel it deserves.

Gameplay mechanics are fairly simple once you get used to them, although you might not anticipate that from glancing at the screenshots. But you'll get plenty of help from the game's Einstein-looking mascot as he guides you through the tutorial and level progression. You primarily use the mouse to interact with the puzzle area and interface, taking objects from your workspace and manipulating them in various ways to find solutions to each level's "experiment." (Armadillo Run is an excellent recent example, if you remember that gem.) With over 200 levels of experiments in all, there are lots of different toys and gadgets to play with, some of which you'll need to use in multiple ways. You've got your average variety of simple items like boxes, pipes and balls; and more advanced tools like conveyor belts, electrical sources, pulleys and wires. You'll even be offered exotic gadgets like zeppelins and robots in later levels, with many other surprises. And those surprises are part of the game's strategy; being able to use critical thinking to deduce the fastest solution in each experiment.

crazymachines_screen2In each level, you're presented with a task or goal to complete, and you're given all the necessary tools and items to work with. Time and space are frozen until you push the "Ready" button, giving you time to examine each experiment and put all your objects in place. Sometimes you'll need all of them, sometimes you'll only need a few. It's how you work with them that determines if you'll succeed or not, and the quicker you your experiment completed its task, the better you did. Many of the items you'll use and the steps you can take are open-ended, meaning there are different ways to use gadgets to accomplish your goal, and some are more efficient than others. In the quirky spirit of Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, you'll have to think ahead and predict how each step will influence the next... "Will a lighter ball have more rebound on impact, allowing it to bounce far enough to trigger the next action? If I place a magnet right here, will that make a difference in an object's trajectory?" These are the kinds of questions you'll be asking yourself as you fine-tune your experiment to accomplish each goal.

If you're a quick study, or you happen to be pretty sharp when it comes to spatial thinking and logical reasoning, you might find yourself successfully rushing though some of the levels quicker than intended. With a partially open-ended game mechanic comes the possibility beating levels with less-than-fulfilling techniques, like using only a small number of available items, or making only the smallest choices in placement. But no matter how smart you are (maybe with the exception of your occasional certified genius), there are plenty of brain-teasing levels to figure out before you reach the end. And when you do, there's a "create-your-own-experiment" mode so you can build your own levels, or download user-created experiments and load them into your game.

Crazy Machines probably won't heat up your graphics card, but the level design and animation is pretty adequate for an almost four-year-old puzzle game. Music and sound rates about the same; nothing extraordinary, but lively and fitting. If you're an old-school Incredible Machine fan or you just enjoy puzzle games in general, give the Crazy Machines demo a spin. It might just be the most fun you've had with ridiculous contraptions since Mouse Trap.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.