Content Test 3

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Graphics: 7.6
Gameplay: 5.7
Sound: 6.8
Control: 5.2
Replay Value: 6
Rating: 6

Customization and creation has become quite the attractor this generation; the added power of our capable new hardware allows players to become developers. One only needs to view the latest super-robust editing tool in a blockbuster title, take a gander at a new Sims installment, or check out Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet. Create probably shouldn’t be compared to such games due to the heavy focus on inspired puzzle-solving but at the same time, it’s tough to get away from the inevitable comparisons. When we do this, we see EA Bright Light’s production is somewhat bland and tedious, and there simply is no comparison to LBP (or even certain game editors). A lot of it is fun, it’s a bit more entertaining with PlayStation Move, and I suppose it could be great for the whole family; i.e., “hey, try this!” But I can’t get past the obvious: it just doesn’t do enough.

The graphics are the main highlight. They’re sharp, crisp and pleasant throughout; many of the items are painstakingly crafted and the appropriate lighthearted atmosphere provides a nice bit of flair. The special effects fall right in line with the crispness of the background and some of the later levels feature quality design. It does appear quite sparse if you don’t go to the trouble to decorate your surroundings, and a few of those items don’t exactly leap off the screen, but the visuals are a definite plus. The developers knew enough to give us a fun-filled setting that appeals to all ages; setting down a little truck with a ramp attached, or attaching a balloon to a little toy car will bring out the kid in you. However, I should add that much of the game looks too static and lifeless. It really could’ve used more in the way of ambient effects and stand-out animations, because the basic stuff can get a little boring.

The sound is in much the same boat, despite a repetitive – albeit fitting – soundtrack that drags the audio down a few notches. The effects can sparkle in certain situations, and they’re capable of putting a satisfying punctuation mark on your ingenious puzzle-solving creation. There is no voice acting to speak of so the sound relies entirely on those rewarding special effects and a music selection that complements the laid-back presentation. I just wish there was a bit more in the way of available tracks; this is one game that could’ve used the benefit of custom soundtracks. After all, we’re in full control of what happens on the screen; shouldn’t we be able to listen to our personal favorites when brainstorming? But at the very least, the combination of the pleasing effects and colorful visuals gives Create a viable foundation. It’s nice to have a set of technicals that…well, just tries to be nice.  I sort of like it.

For the record, the title of this game is a little misleading. If you simply glanced at the box, you would assume you’d be making a bunch of stuff, right? Well, you will and you won’t. Mostly, it’s all about elaborate puzzle-solving: you are presented with a particular goal, which usually involves getting one particular object to a particular location. The game shakes things up with Scoretacular and Contraption-o-matic sections that require you to be even more creative but in general, you’ll spend most of your time sifting through your available tools and examining the screen. The further you go, the more difficult the challenges and the more tools you will have at your disposal. You can also decorate any given level with stickers and other items you gather up, but it’s almost purely optional and doesn’t add much to the experience, unfortunately.

With such a game, I think it’s best to deal with my personal reactions, just because Create seems to morph and adopt a certain form and style, depending on the player. It’s quite open and depending on your patience level, ingenuity, strive to customize and direct, and overall puzzle-solving skill, this production will boast various rewards. For some, it’ll be just the ticket for a quiet evening at home with the family gathered ‘round the living room. For others, it’ll be an exercise in tedium and ultimate disappointment. While I appreciate the design effort and I always support any interactive experience that makes us think, I’m leaning towards the disappointed side of the spectrum. The problem revolves around a two-fold issue: firstly, the overly demanding – i.e., the demand to be far too precise – control, and secondly, the lack of that certain “oomph” we required.

Sure, I had fun for a while. The first few levels hold your hand and get you accustomed to this puzzle-solving situation, and after a time, I really got involved with ramping up my scores and going for the flashy Chains. And as is the case with most anything involving puzzles, a strong sense of satisfaction accompanies every solution. I particularly liked the micromanagement part (must be the almost dormant RPG fan inside of me) and kicking back, racking my brains for the best possible answer to the problem put a smile on my face. But that warm, fuzzy feeling ebbed away after the first hour and before long, I found myself becoming indifferent. There just isn’t enough here to warrant a lot of my attention. And it has nothing to do with the longevity; there are 14 different levels and 10 Challenges in each level, so there’s plenty of gameplay. It’s just that it all starts to feel too similar, and some of the later challenges are really obscure.  It's a touch annoying.

Also, if you’re using the standard Dual Shock 3 controller, you’ll be tasked with infinitesimal movements and sometimes, it’s not that you don’t know what to do, it’s just that you were off by a half a millimeter. Therefore, you actually spend more time adjusting, tweaking and fiddling than you do settling on a plan of attack. And you know, that just isn’t much fun. Experimentation should be more about depth and freedom of creativity rather than taking a particular item and shifting it about a dozen times before the puzzle works. The entire process just got too repetitive and too tedious; the developers had the opportunity to present us with something special, but they didn’t inject enough substance. What we end up with is an okay effort that falls well shy in terms of implementation and execution. It’s not that it isn’t worth playing, per se, it’s that most gamers will come away with a “meh” feeling after playing for a few hours.

In the end, Create might be a decent option for the family, it works well with Move, there’s a ton of ingenuity in many of the challenges, and the amount of satisfaction gleaned from completing a tough puzzle is worth the time invested. But the repetition and tedious nature of the control and gameplay, the lack of any in-depth “creating,” and frustrating, constant adjustments only adds to the irritation. It’s just another one of those “what if” games where one is left thinking, “what if they had continued on the path and expanded and refined?” Sadly, it didn’t happen. It might be good for just the right audience but for everyone else…

The Good: Pleasing, solid technical presentation. Some well-designed puzzles and environments. Good PlayStation Move integration. Can be satisfying and rewarding.

The Bad: Gameplay is often repetitive and tedious. Control can be frustrating. Not enough done with “create” formula. Puzzles can be obscure. Difficulty is erratic. Lack of in-depth substance.

The Ugly: “Oh, so it’s off by a tenth of a millimeter…of course, how stupid of me…”

12/13/2010   Ben Dutka