For years now, gamers have enjoyed the delights of user-made creations; crafting virtual building blocks into in all manner of wonderful, bizarre inventions. Games like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft satisfy that need to be creative in a similar way to LEGO – there’s an implacable sense of joy gleaned from conjuring an image in your mind then watching it materialise as you put the pieces together.
It’s something we haven’t see a great deal of since the launch of PlayStation VR. To be fair, it’s early days for Sony’s new piece of tech though there’s a noticeable dearth of games allowing for expression and creativity. This is something Fantastic Contraption manages to tap into, even if it only scratches the surface.
Originally launched as a free flash game in 2008, this indie title has been brought to life in VR. Split between 50 levels, it’s a fairly straightforward game – at least in concept. Players need to transport the target object(s) to an endzone in order to win. Getting there is easier said than done, however, requiring you to build all kinds of odd-looking constructs. Once satisfied with your creation, you can press play and watch it try to reach its goal.
At first Fantastic Contraption is pretty easy. Slap down a few wheels, connect them with rods and then watch them go. However, the puzzles quickly require you to think outside the box. By level five I was already running into difficulty, trying to figure out what to do with the limited set of tools the game gives you.
That’s where the frustration kicks in, being to able to see exactly where you need to go, picturing in your mind how your solutions would work, then realising it just isn’t feasible within the game’s mechanical boundaries. It doesn’t help that there’s little in the way of tips or advice as how best to use its handful of bobbins.
As a result, the only way I could beat most stages was by completely winging it. Instead of following some master schematic I had drawn up in my mind, I found myself spewing out one poorly built prototype after the next until one somehow collapsed into the endzone.
Having already launched on HTC Vive, it’s the better of the two platforms on which to play Fantastic Contraption. The reason? Room scale VR and the freedom to move around without worrying where you camera is positioned. With PSVR you have a side-on view of the playing field. Not ideal when you’re attempting to construct something in 3D, awkwardly leaning from side to side, making sure your Move wands don’t overlap one another.
Speaking of the Move, you’ll need at least one of Sony’s motion controllers to play though we’d strongly recommend having two. If there’s one thing that actually works well in Fantastic Contraption, it’s the actual building itself. Grabbing, stretching, and attaching components has that aforementioned LEGO-like feel. You’re not just stacking bricks one on top of the other, you’re almost sculpting a model in 3D and it feels great.
However, marrying this with a catalogue of vague puzzles just doesn’t work as well as you might think. While Fantastic Contraption encourages you to be creative, it immediately boxes you in at the same time with a limited number of solutions and even fewer tools. Its novelty wears off far too soon, resulting in something as shaky as its player-made creations.