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Everyone has a creative side, whether they choose to express it or not. We may not all have it in us to be great inventors, engineers, or designers, but we all have an innate ability to tinker, to experiment, to see what works and what doesn’t work.
This is the element of humanity that Fantastic Contraption and Fantastic Contraption 2 rely on. These are games that require some lateral thinking and a little creativity. These aren’t simple, straightforward, shoot-what-you-see-on-screen affairs. But that’s a good thing, especially for those who like to give their gray matter an occasional workout. No, Skyrim doesn’t count.
Fantastic Contraption can be played on Kongregate, a website bursting at the seams with browser-based games. You can sign up to become a member to save progress, amongst other things, but you don’t have to. In order to create your own levels and to play the levels others have already created you need to buy the full game. But again, that is entirely optional.
The basic premise of Fantastic Contraption is to get a pink wheel from one area of the screen to another. It starts in a pale blue area and needs to be deposited in the pink area in order for you to pass the level. How you get it from one to the other is completely up to you, as long as you use only the tools and parts put at your disposal.
Once you have beaten a level you can click on ‘Other Players’ Designs’ to see how others solved it. It’s rather fascinating seeing the multiple different methods people use to accomplish the task. You’re likely to see designs that are so simple you’ll wonder why you spent 10 minutes building such an intricate machine.
An important tip to note is that you can move the pink wheel to anywhere within the construction area prior to starting. Doing so can mean the difference between a simple, elegant solution, and a complex, unwieldy one.
The tools at your disposal are Clockwise Wheels, Counter-Clockwise Wheels, Un-Powered Wheels, Water Rods, and Wood Rods. By experimenting in the early levels you can gage exactly what they do and when best to deploy them. You also have ‘Move’ and ‘Delete’ options that do exactly what you’d expect them to do.
One annoyance is the lack of a ‘Delete All’ button, which means you instead have to go back to the menu and then click on the level again in order to shortcut the starting over. But apart from that small oversight Fantastic Contraption is a joy to play. It will make your head hurt on occasion as you try to figure out where to even get started, but that can be fun from time to time.
Fantastic Contraption 2
Fantastic Contraption 2 also resides at Kongregate, and the same deal applies with regards to optional logins. The gameplay is essentially the same too: the need to move a pink wheel from the starting area to the goal. And once again it’s left to you to figure out the optimal way to achieve this.
The same tools from the first game are once again present, but added to the list are Water Chains, Solid Chains, and Positive and Negative Magnets. The magnets are a Godsend on some levels, though they require a lot of experimentation to deploy correctly. Once you learn how to use them in the right way you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them.
In this game you’re awarded a rating for each Fantastic Contraption. This is designed to make you think longer and harder about what you’re creating rather than just throwing various elements into the mix to see what will happen (which is how I usually proceed). The one in the picture below is considered ‘Solved but Unattractive’. And I cannot argue with that description.
Fantastic Contraption 2 ramps up the difficulty a little, but while the levels are more convoluted there are more tools available to accomplish your task. This is a game for those people who like crossword puzzles and Brain Training-type games. Or for those who like to test themselves and the creative, problem-solving parts of their brain.
Fantastic Contraption and Fantastic Contraption 2 are both great games I would recommend playing. Although the second game is superior, it’s worth playing the first in order to follow the learning curve. Both games are free to play online with no need to sign up or subscribe to anything.
Fans of Angry Birds have more reasons that most to check out Fantastic Contraption: Rovio’s new IP is titled Amazing Alex and is based on Casey’s Contraptions, a game playing with the idea of Rube Goldberg machines. Playing these two titles could act as a warm-up to the main event that the successor to Angry Birds will undoubtedly be.