Developer: inXile Entertainment
Price: $7.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

On the PS3, Little Big Planet revolutionized the way we think about games for the platform, involving the community in a way that would expand the longevity of the game as users created downloadable content that they could rate and share with other users. While it is certainly no LBP, inXile Entertainment has thrust their game Fantastic Contraption into a similar scenario, porting a title that will grow legs as the community grows and contributes their own creations.

As with inXile’s other iPhone title Line Rider iRide, Fantastic Contraption began life on the web as a Flash game, and has now been ported faithfully to the iPhone platform. In it, you’re tasked with building a contraption, typically a vehicle of some sort, to move a designated object to an area of the level that has been marked as the Goal. You’re given a limited selection of objects to use to build your contraption, and then it’s up to you and your wits to solve the level.

A sample puzzle level

A sample puzzle level

While not the best-looking physics puzzler around, Contraption‘s unique brand of “get object A to point B” style of play puts it in a class of its own. While the levels do ramp up in terms of difficulty as the game progresses, some of the early puzzles are nothing to sneeze at. I found myself scratching my head on a few of the earliest levels, until I got to the point where I would just place random objects on the screen to see what would happen – and this is where the game really shines. Although a tad frustrating at first as you attempt to grok the mechanics of the game, you come to learn that sometimes the best method of attack is not to over-think your strategy, but to begin building what you think may work and then slowly refine your machine until you get Object A to the goal. This game mechanic makes solving a level extremely satisfying, to the point where I was actually fist-pumping at my incredible intellectual prowess (yeah, I’m a dork).

One of my zany machines that actually worked

One of my zany machines that actually worked

If Contraption‘s 43 levels were the end of the line, it’d still be worth purchasing from the hours and hours of entertainment the game provides. inXile, however, has one-upped the genre by adding in a robust social layer that will extend the life of the title for months to come. Included inside the game is a level editor that allows you to create your own puzzles and share them to the community, who can then download it straight to their iPhones or iPod Touches. Much like Little Big Planet, any of the community-created levels can be rated, making a search for a new cool level to play as easy as a few clicks. Not only can you upload your own levels to the dedicated server, but any contraptions you create to solve a puzzle can be uploaded to the community as well. I’ve had just as much fun looking through the hilarious (and often ingenious) creations that other players have designed to beat a particular level as playing the game itself. Smartly, you can only view other players’ solutions after you have beaten the level yourself. Long after I’m done playing the built-in puzzles I can see myself returning to this game to see what new challenges the community has created.

As mentioned before, Fantastic Contraption’s design style leaves something to be desired. Not that we’re saying it needs to be another crayon clone, but some sort of pleasing art design would have gone a long way toward giving it that Apple shine. One thing I didn’t notice until after I had played it a while was the lack of music. While we certainly don’t need to see the web version’s music ported over (it’s too blaring and annoying), some sort of ambient track that doesn’t grate on your nerves would have been a nice addition. As far as the gameplay itself, while I have some objections to the names of some of the objects (the water rod should definitely be called something else), and slight issues with the fiddly nature of placing and removing objects, overall these proved to be minor annoyances in the greater landscape of playing the game.

If you’re still in doubt as to whether you want to pony up $7.99, the great thing is that you can try out a nearly identical replica of the game online before you decide on whether it would be worth having a mobile version. In my eyes, I heartily recommend having this one in your pocket.

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