One of the standouts from the HTC Vive launch last year, Fantastic Contraption showcased the room-scale technology of the platform, tasking players with building wacky and colorful creations. With the goal of reuniting a glowing purplish orb of jelly with a block of the same color, your own imagination is the only thing that will limit you in Fantastic Contraption. With all sorts of shapes, materials, and objects at your disposal, the game truly lets your creative juices flowing in own of the most bizarre and entertaining games I’ve played. Although the PlayStation VR build of the game removes room-scale, I still feel that it is a must-play and a great title for those new to virtual reality.
Tracing its origin back to a free flash game almost a decade ago, Fantastic Contraption's use of freedom, stylized visuals, and fun gameplay hook is what sets it apart from many games on the PSVR. Across dozens of puzzles, your goal stays the same, build some type of machine capable of moving on its own to direct the orb to its goal. PlayStation Move controllers are a requirement, at least one, but for the full experience, you’ll want to have two. Placing objects is easy enough, grab the type of piece you want, stretch or shrink the size, and connect it to another piece. The ends of pieces can snap into each other, providing a satisfying notion that you’ve successfully attached the two pieces. The game doesn’t stop there with two pieces, as you can connect as many pieces together by the same joint as needed. Think of it as a pyramid, or in my case, an eight sided monstrosity. Fantastic Contraption is in a perpetual frozen state, that is until you hit the play button, and your crazy apparatus springs to life. Wheels have a set direction that they will spin, indicated by their color and arrow directions. Be careful not to place wheels going the wrong way, or, like me, you’ll be wasting an afternoon trying to figure out why your machine isn’t operating as expected.
After the first handful of puzzles, the game’s difficulty ramps up, requiring you to make precision machines with the pieces available to you. From the angle of your pieces of wood to their length, every minute details affects how your contraption will perform. Balance is essential unless you are striving for an unbalance swinging wrecking all, and I’d say some of the puzzles certainly call for it. Without room-scale functionality, however, Fantastic Contraption loses some of its charm, as players now have a side-view of the play area. While the area can be resized based on how far you want to stretch your arms, not to mention the limitations of the PlayStation Camera, it feels different than the original HTC Vive release. Building is still enjoyable, but the view restricting can be troubling at times. You can pick up your entire creation and rotate it around to compensate for not being in the middle of the action.
One of the neat extras the game has to offer is when you put on the space helmet in the game, almost serving as a separate VR environment. Here, you can save any contraption you have made, or change puzzles. The creations can only be used on the same puzzle as they were made. It’s a shame, as I would have loved to save a base creation and use this as a starting point.
Fantastic Contraption loses some of its charm with the lack of room-scale functionality, but the game is still enjoyable. The puzzles are purposely obtuse, letting players use their imagination on how to use the various types of objects to build a functional and moving apparatus.
Note: Fantastic Contraption was reviewed based on a digital PlayStation VR copy of the game, provided by the publisher.