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  •              There is something infinitely fascinating about a Rube Goldbergian machine. It's almost hypnotic watching an elaborate sequence of rolling balls, levers, and springs lead to an overly complicated solution of toasting a piece of bread or popping a balloon. As such, these machines are a natural fit for a game. And while the classic board game Mousetrap gave many their first taste of the complicated contraptions, it wasn't until 1992's The Incredible Machine that gamers were able to let their mechanical imaginations run wild in the digital realm. Though Crazy Machines Elements is not a direct descendant of The Incredible Machine's lineage, it still shares a great deal of its DNA, making it more of a cousin than a sibling to the classic puzzle game.

                 The core experience of Crazy Machines Elements is its puzzle mode, which follows the Rube Goldberg format through 100 stages of increasingly complex contraptions. The machines in these puzzle levels are partially constructed with key components missing and a deceptively simple goal such as knocking over a bowling pin or transferring a ball from one end of the machine to the other. Simply slot the right pieces in place, set the machine in motion, and the puzzle is solved.

                 The early stages don't offer much of a challenge, relying entirely on simple physics puzzles. However, the game picks up once the titular elements come into play. Fire, wind, water, ice, and electricity mix up the gameplay by introducing new uses for standard items. Each item has a set of attributes depending on its material, allowing a wooden platform to become a timed release when set on fire, or a metal shopping cart to transfer an electric current.
                 Unfortunately, the puzzle mode in Crazy Machines Elements doesn't take full advantage of the potential these elements introduce. Each puzzle level typically has only one solution that boils down to slotting a small inventory of pieces into the right place. Obvious gaps are left to telegraph where a component belongs, taking away much of the guesswork. On the rare occasion that I found an alternate solution to a level, I was punished with a lower score because it didn't fit the game's design. While many of the puzzles are still rather satisfying, I often felt more like I was trying to read the developer's mind rather than intuitively solve a puzzle.
                 In contrast with the strict puzzle mode, Crazy Machines Elements also includes a challenge mode and level editor. These are where the game truly shines. In challenge mode, very little is provided for the player. One level asked me to get a basketball through a hoop hanging above it. No other objects were in the level, giving me free reign to construct a machine of conveyor belts, catapults, and whatever else I wished to accomplish the level's goal. There are still some restrictions in challenge mode, as each level gives you a set budget to spend on items with the more extravagant items netting a higher cost. Even so, the level budgets are high enough to still encourage experimentation and multiple solutions. 

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