Create seems to attract a whole host comparisons. “Scribblenauts without the spelling”, “a bit like LittleBigPlanet”, but no, I’m going to eschew modern day relevance and make a real comparison. Create is a bit like one of my favourite games of all time, 1993 DOS classic The Incredible Toon Machine, as well as the comparable and better known board game Mousetrap, each with their playful, Rube Goldberg-esque take on chain reactions.
Sadly, it shares none of either’s charms. Create is a strange proposition: its name, coupled with the assorted screenshots scattered across its box, conjures up visions of a colourful world of creativity and personal flair. And while you’d be half right, confusion over exactly what Create is extends into the game itself, with a strange split between solving a series of themed puzzles and decorating the play area itself - which turns out to be as peculiar as it sounds.
Puzzles have two main facets, Challenges and Chains. Challenges, as the name would suggest, involve solving the puzzles themselves with a limited tool set and an array of paraphernalia, from momentum-generating fans and buoyant balloons to DIY vehicles made from iron girders and makeshift wheels. And after a painfully slow start, these puzzles make for some interesting, if fiddly, play, as you send rocket-propelled buggies hurtling over improbable gaps to reach the finish line.
Chains on the other hand struggle to excite, as you’re guided to colour in parts of the scenery and plonk decorative objects around in an effort to jazz the place up. But the whole thing feels tacked on, shallow and superfluous, leaving me in an unfamiliar dilemma. I began urging myself on, convincing myself that, though I might not be the quintessential member of Create’s target market, I love puzzle games. I don’t mind a bit of creative dabbling either, I’ve played The Sims – hell, I’ve played Second Life – and reminding myself that, above all, I couldn’t admit defeat and simply brand it as probably just for kids…
After all, a quality game should transcend the age groups, with LEGO Star Wars and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts being stand-out, though admittedly rare, examples. But instead of augmenting and enriching the puzzles they help frame, the flimsy, hollow process of dolling up the backgrounds waters them down and steals focus.
It’s a shame, because, as a concept, Create is not only sound, but sought after. With the recent influx of motion control – this generation’s favourite aside – being a perfect fit for puzzlers, all three of the consoles are begging for an accessible, rewarding puzzler to scratch the itch. And the principle of playing with the scenery as well as the active components of the puzzle is quirky and original but, in this case, poorly implemented.
The real deal breaker, however, is the control system, which is an exercise in pure frustration and makes you wonder if the game’s developers tested it on anyone, let alone youngsters. Unintuitive, picky and poorly conceived, it’s likely a byproduct of Create being developed for all four platforms on a budget. In combination with the trial-and-error of puzzling it serves to diminish the game beyond the realms of playability for your average gamer, with equal parts dexterity and patience required to extract any fun from the experience.
The result is a game that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and sits awkwardly, straddling the line between puzzler and do-it-yourself world building, falling short of both rather ungracefully. Its muddled controls and largely over-simplistic puzzles combine to create nothing but an awkward, frustrating game of trial and error with little in the way of genuine gratification or achievement.
Try as it might, Create is hard to recommend.
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