Some games are so strange that you have to play them to believe it. The construction-based puzzles in Fantastic Contraption may be tricky to solve but does it offer a worthwhile VR gaming experience?
Fantastic Contraption is played by guiding pink glowing entities to their respective goals. You do so by building mobile contraptions within each stage in order to hopefully escort its orb home. Constructing these contraptions is done via PlayStation Move controllers as you basically pick up, stretch, rotate, and move pieces in three dimensions. The parts consist of two types of sticks and perpetually moving cylindrical wheels. Slowly building a contraption then putting it in motion only to watch it inevitably fail its mission adds a layer of addictiveness as you make minor tweaks until it finally accomplishes its task. Thankfully, there are 50 stages to solve which is more than most gamers will be able to complete without losing their patience. Also, the amount of variety among the stages is impressive as some of them involve catapults, tightropes, elevators, and plenty of hard-to-reach goals. Overall, these challenges will surely put your practical puzzle abilities to the test.
The world of Fantastic Contraption is a weird one indeed. Upon first glance, it seems like a simple setting with floating islands and blue sky backdrops. However, if you take a look around then you'll see giant figures looming in the background. I must admit, I had a bit of a scare when I first noticed the monstrosity within the helmet screen. Speaking of which, you can put a helmet on your head in order to enter a menu where you can select levels and save and load contraptions. These helmets are randomized so sometimes they'll be space-themed or even have a unicorn design. Anyway, you snag your building supplies from a cat named Neko whose farts propel it around each stage. It's strange stuff but that makes playing it all the more enjoyable. The droney music adds to the oddball atmosphere, too. On the other hand, the visuals start to become repetitive because there's only one environment throughout the campaign.
Fantastic Contraption has a very steep learning curve. Even after working through the basic tutorial, you'll find yourself scratching your VR headset wondering what to do. This will definitely alienate less patient gamers but if you stick to it then you'll delight in the intuitive controls and the open-ended gameplay that will put your imagination in overdrive. In other words, you'll go from not knowing exactly how to play to building complex machines in less time than you ever thought possible. Once that moment clicks and it all starts making sense; the gameplay turns from confusing to incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.
As I've already touched upon, Fantastic Contraption has an emphasis on trial and error. This makes tweaking your creations to perfection a satisfying endeavor but it can also be very frustrating. In some stages, you may not even know if you're on the right track and failing after dozens of tweaks will make you feel rather discouraged. Thankfully, you can select another stage if you get too fed up.
One aspect that Fantastic Contraption can improve is its array of building mechanics. You only ever get a couple of basic materials (sticks and wheels) which forces you to think critically but I wish that there were additional mechanics in later stages or different modes. You can accomplish a lot with these couple of material types but having extra varieties would have helped freshen up the gameplay.
If the idea of a VR construction-based puzzler appeals to you then Fantastic Contraption is a must-play game. Just make sure you bring along plenty of patience because this farting cat may get on your nerves from time to time.
- + Large variety of challenging puzzles that will test your practical logic skills
- + Strange yet enjoyable atmosphere
- + Intuitive gameplay once it all clicks
- - Learning curve is a bit steep and there's a big emphasis on trial and error
- - Visuals are mostly unvaried
- - Could use more building mechanics