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Preview: Fantastic Contraption

Northway Games’ has something special for you when the Oculus Touch launches. While others will let you wield swords, play sports and craft magic, the Toronto-based developer is creating a big, bombastic celebration of building stuff. It’s recreating the childhood days of emptying a tub of Lego bricks onto your bedroom floor and losing yourself in the playful joy of sticking things together and seeing what becomes of it. It calls this work Fantastic Contraption and it’s easy to see why.

Fantastic Contraption tasks you with building weird, wacky vehicles to hold an orb and drive it towards a goal zone. It may be that you build a simple four-wheeled car to push it along the way, or perhaps construct something far more elaborate. The important thing is that the title lets you choose the latter option with no setbacks. There aren’t limits to Fantastic Contraption’s levels; no one is asking you to build with a certain number of pieces or make something in a time limit. You’re free to dive right into your imagination and experiment.

Fantastic Contraption screenshot

That’s the key to the fun here. Fantastic Contraption is a giddy, laboratory of accessible, engrossing creation mechanics. You’re given wheels, the direction of which they’re placed in determining in which direction they travel, a set of beams to join pieces together, and some tools to set pieces in place and more.  Crucially, this is all delivered through an accessible control scheme using Oculus Touch. With Oculus VR’s position tracked controllers you simply grab the object you want to interact with one hand. From there, you can piece it together with another object and grab with it your other hand to resize.

With these simple mechanics in place, the environment round you becomes a playground of imagination. You simply pick up the pieces, stick them together, and test out your creation. It’s that environment itself that provides the challenge. The path to the goal zone might be littered with blocks, or have gaps that you’ll have to traverse.  The aim is to experiment, create bizarre, wonderful Frankenstein’s monsters and send them off to their victory or demise. Truthfully, it’s the latter that brings the most joy; watching your awkward abominations collapse, hit the floor and proceed to circle around on the ground holds some of VR’s best humour yet.

You can see elements of previous user-generated content titles in its DNA too. Creations can be saved in a hub world, that’s accessed by putting on a helmet. It’s a sort of VR-within-VR feel and the second virtual world you find yourself in has plenty more to explore, including level select options.

Northway Games is piling on other options to play around with too. One key example of this is making the player a giant within any level, allowing them to sit down on the floor and play with the contraptions as if they were really toys. It’s only a small addition, but it allows you to experience the title from an entirely different angle.

Fantastic Contraption feels like a visit to Willy Wonka’s Building Factory. It’s looking to be a wonderful example of the more playful side of VR, empowering you in ways you hadn’t thought of before. This could well be one of the early must haves for Oculus Touch.