Like The Incredible Machine before it, Create indulges the Rube Goldberg in everyone by setting up inane objectives—like propelling a clown car through a ring of fire, or delivering toast via rocket—then providing all the contents of an overturned toy box with which to solve them. But Create has a secondary objective, too: equipping gamers (and importantly, their families) with the textures, weather patterns, objects, and animals to decorate and populate those puzzles. Ideally, it’s a game of low-impact fun and set-dressing with shades of LittleBigPlanet. In practice, the puzzles, while satisfying, tend to blur together, and it’s unclear who would find dragging and dropping circus tents and potted plants around a virtual landscape a worthwhile end in itself.
Despite the highly touted ability to “let your imagination run wild,” Create is on its firmest footing when it’s focused less on encouraging players to follow their bliss, and more on tried-and-true challenge modes. Scoretacular is a “transport object X to location Y” task begging to be disrupted. Players toss proximity mines, blimps, and monster trucks into the mix in hopes of big explosions and bigger scores. Contraption-O-Matic does The Incredible Machine one better, supplying all the moving parts necessary to construct a jury-rigged vehicle with the responsibility of hauling moon-rocks, bridging gaps, or both.
The levels ratchet up the difficulty almost imperceptibly at first, and “sparks”—necessary for advancing across the game’s 10 boards—are plentiful, accessible, and awarded for the smallest accomplishments, such as sprucing up the joint with a fresh lick of paint and a go-cart or two. Later, the game’s dedication to open-ended solutions that reward lucky flukes of physics and inspiration alike tips toward the happy-accident end of the spectrum, and success in crossing a particularly tricky gap or placing a land mine in the perfect spot to pop a balloon is decided by microns, not mental acuity. At this point, it’s either go back to the drawing board, or adjust, then re-adjust, ad nauseam.
Sharing gadgets online to see who can improvise the most cumbersome mechanism, the most elegant solution, or the most CPU-taxing staging area is encouraged, but this is another of the game’s features that feels audience-less. More than anything, Create’s credo of supplying a place for imagination to flourish feels ill-conceived, like placing a toddler in a sandbox, telling her to do whatever her heart desires, then showing her the blueprints for what you’re expecting.