Just two weeks before the sweet embrace of summer vacation, my high school physics teacher gave my class a uniquely difficult task. Pour him a cup of coffee – except we couldn't actually do the pouring. This was my class' introduction to Rube Goldberg machines. After about a week, we discovered that building a complicated solution to a simple problem out of school supplies, duck tape, and whatever else we could scrounge up from trash cans and Goodwill was not easy. Mostly because Rube Goldberg machines are a practice in lucky physics in motion. Nine times out of ten our machines failed, occasionally catastrophically, but that one time it worked was extremely gratifying.
Crazy Machines 3 is a lot like that, and even though I missed out on the riveting experience of the first two Crazy Machines titles I can say with absolute confidence that this is an effective Rube Goldberg machine simulator. But occasionally, the game makes barriers for itself that seem out of place in a game about making fantastical freeform machines.
Lots to do, but lacking motivation
Crazy Machines 3 has a surprisingly expansive campaign and a heck of a lot of Steam community workshop content to download and play at your leisure. As a Crazy Machine newbie, I dove into the campaign early on, learning the nuances of everything from gears to lasers and eventually diving into some fairly complex puzzles.
Starting out, these puzzles are a lot of fun, especially as you learn the new tools at your disposal and as you get that familiar thrill of figuring out a complex puzzle that may have previously had you stumped. Combine that with the fact that the game is rendered pretty well for a physics-based puzzle game and you can get some really cool visuals from some of the more complicated machines. There's a certain satisfaction to building a machine that functions in a perfect loop, and I found that the easily entertained side of my brain just wanted to sit back and watch the balls clank their way through the machine on more than one occasion.
The game really shines with its community workshop support – the ability to download other player's creations and create your own opens up multiple avenues of replay value, and with a good community behind it, it could create a nearly infinite supply of puzzles or creations to share. Creating machines is a satisfying experience all on it's own if you're a builder, but the game could really use a toggle key that allows creators and players to swap the orientation of gadgets and make designing puzzles more versatile overall.
Unfortunately, even with the workshop content it wasn't long before I found myself questioning why I was playing the game at all. The campaign missions are all variants of transporting items from point A to point B or similar variants on this general idea, which gets repetitive on it's own and there just wasn't a purpose to the workshop content that kept me coming back for more.
One of the things that guided me through the early levels of the game was the sense that I was learning something. Whether it was a new mechanic, a new concept, or a new way that several gadgets could work together, the early levels peaked my curiosity and gave me a reason to move to the next section. Yet, when I got out of the more tutorial-style objectives the game quickly lost its curve appeal for the sole reason that I was running out of new toys to play with.
The Right Puzzle for You
A lot of this comes down to the fact that Crazy Machines 3 is very much a traditional puzzle game with a shiny new shell, and it's really meant to be enjoyed for the sake of puzzles themselves, rather than because you have some kind of driving motivation to complete them. Which is fine – Sudoku, Crosswords, and hundreds of other puzzle games have survived for years on this premise alone, but if you're not the kind of person that enjoys solving puzzles because you've never solved them before then you're going to be searching for a nearly non-existent purpose in Crazy Machines 3.
There's still a bit of fun to be had creating your own machines or downloading machines that other players enjoy, but it all comes back to the fact that this is the kind of game that's going to either be a delightful time waster or a terrible grind, depending on your stances on puzzles. If you need a story or an experience gauge to keep you playing a puzzle game, you'll probably want to give Crazy Machines 3 a pass.
Even if you are a fan of puzzles large and small there are a few quirks in Crazy Machines that make the experience less than streamlined. Although you're technically free to place your gadgets wherever you want, you can't place them where they'll collide with other objects. That’s not normally an issue except that the gadgets also snap to a grid, and when the two combine you'll find yourself spending a frustrating amount of time trying to coordinate fine movement where the difference between colliding with an object and the spot you need to finish the puzzle are nearly impossible to coordinate.
This also heavily impedes the creativity and versatility of certain gadgets, and inevitably leads to a situation where logic dictates that a certain solution should work perfectly, but because you can't properly snap a piece of equipment between the lines of the grid, the solution collides with other items or simply doesn't fit with the physics needed to complete the puzzle.