Each physics level guarantees satisfaction.
And unless you have a strange allergic reaction,
You'll soon be hooked on Newton's laws of interaction.
Ok, so maybe I shouldn't write poetry for a living, but I have had so much fun with this game, that I could not help myself. Created by Colin Northway and Andy Moore, Fantastic Contraption is a physics puzzle game in which the objective in each level is to move all red objects into a rectangular goal area. To do this, you are given a blue rectangular building area and a few different materials in which you can build your device. Standing in your way, however, are a variety of obstacles, ranging from gaping gaps to a sea of circles bent on destroying your red-object-mover-apparatus.
To make your machine, click on the type of material you want, and then click or drag in the light blue "building area" to place it. At your disposal are three different wheels—a clockwise spinner, a counter clockwise spinner, and a regular wheel—as well as two different connectors—a solid "stick" and "water" rod, which can pass through other walls and wheels, but not the environment. Each of these objects has nodes (represented by small, light gray circles) that other objects can attach to so you can create more complicated contraptions. One nice feature about this game is the keyboard shortcuts. A couple especially useful ones are:
- [Shift]+mouse to move items. Note that if you click on a node when using this technique, only that connection will move, whereas if you click on any other part of the structure, the entire device will move. Also, you can use [Shift] click to pan around the level by clicking on the background.
- [Command]+mouse (or Ctrl, for Windows users) to delete items.
- [Space] to start or stop a test.
Although the game is completely free, for 10 dollars, you can get a few added benefits: being able to make and share custom levels as well as being able to play other people's levels, all while supporting independent game development.
Analysis: With just 5 components, you might think this game would not be that interesting. However, as the levels grow harder and harder, you will quickly find yourself doing things that you could have never imagined with these meager materials. Furthermore, after each level, I found myself amazed with the Fantastic Contraption I had just built, wanting to show it to everybody.
The main reason this game is so rewarding is because it is so well thought out. Like most physics games, you have to do a lot of tweaking, and the controls are easy to get used to and provide helpful visual cues (i.e. if you hold shift, a set of arrows comes up to remind you can now move stuff around). Similarly, if you attempt to edit your machine while a trial is in progress, an arrow pops up, reminding you to stop the trial first. Likewise, the art is unobtrusive yet beautiful; the pastel colors make you feel less like bashing your keyboard when your beautiful Ferris wheel fails to launch the red balls far enough for the 10th time.
Another plus about this game is that it is extremely casual. There are no spending limits; you can use all the material you want. You can also, skip levels if they are just too difficult which takes the stress off of casual gamers. This has the added benefit of allowing you to play on different computers without restarting the entire game.
Furthermore, if you just can't beat that one level, don't worry. Colin Northway has done an excellent job of allowing players to easily share their created content. Users can easily save and share levels (after a painless registration), so you can see the funky contraptions that others have made. However, instead of having to share long obfuscated level codes, the game gives you a short URL to copy. In addition to the extra levels, the 10-dollar expansion also allows you to create and share your own levels.
As far as downsides to this game, there aren't that many. Like any game with a full physics engine, it may cause performance issues on older computers. Also, the music can get a bit repetitive (although I doubt the author expected me to play for such an extended time period). Luckily there is a volume control that instantly remedied the situation.
In short, this game was excellently conceived, and excellently executed, altogether making for excellent fun.
Created a Fantastic Contraption? Share it in the comments!