Gamescom 2018 Hands-On: Crazy Machines VR Needs Just A Little More Invention

by Jamie Feltham • August 24th, 2018

Hit the button, let the cogs whirl, twisting the arm. The arm taps a domino that topples into another, causing a chain reaction that ends with a pressed button that launches a rocket that flicks a switch that drops an anvil. The anvil sets off a car which crashes into a final button, activating your invention.

And that, in a nutshell, is Crazy Machines VR.

FAKT Software’s inventive little series has always coasted by on the simple satisfactions of the Rube-Goldberg-Machine. I could watch those things for days as they spilled from one momentary spark of ingeunity to another and, clearly, millions of other people could too. A VR version that brings the physics funhouse to life was surely a no-brainer, then.

The good news is that it is indeed a lot of fun to watch Crazy Machine VR’s puzzles unfold with a headset on. Calculating how objects will react to each other has an extra dimension to it you just couldn’t have before, and it no doubt makes the series’ tried and true mechanics much more complex than before. In fact, FAKT even told me the game was built on a new engine so that they could get the most out of the physics system. The slightest nudge of a domino sends it tumbling in exactly the way you’d expect.

It’s still in need of a bit of polish; some interactions didn’t look natural, while the PSVR version as a whole looks literally rough around the edges, but those reactions are undoubtedly the game’s biggest draw right now. As embarrassingly excitable as it is to watch Crazy Machines VR, though, I’m a little concerned the actual game may be a little on the light side.

For starters, the two levels I played simply asked players to put missing objects in marked locations, filling in gaps of a pre-assembled sequence. The pieces you need are all put to one side for you to pick up and slot into place; solving the puzzle is simply a matter of putting the right bit in the right place. Swapping around parts in trial and error puzzle solving has a playful kind of joy to it, but it can’t help but feel restrained.

Bare in mind that these were the earliest levels of the game and Crazy Machines is all about escalation. It’s very possible new elements are introduced, but the small slice I’ve played doesn’t feel like the truest expression of what this series can do. Even simple things like throwing in objects that had no place in the puzzle as red herrings would engage your brain a bit more.

Undoubtedly the biggest omission, though, is the lack of a level editor. You’re not going to be able to assemble your own sequences in Crazy Machines VR and I can’t help but feel that’s a mistake. I definitely understand FAKT’s plight; there’d be no end to potential bugs if you left players off the leash and fine-tuning the placement of objects would be finicky, but it’s surely better to let players discover that for themselves.

There are, however, a handful of sandbox levels for you to play around in, and FAKT is promising 40 levels in this edition. I have no doubt Crazy Machines VR is going to be an entertaining VR puzzle game, I’m just not entirely confident it’s going to reach its true potential. There’s still a ways to go before launch and a heck of a lot of content to dig into, though, so I’d be more than happy to be wrong.

Crazy Machines VR is set to release on PC later this year and PSVR in early 2019.

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