Create

Reviewed for: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

Also available for: Wii, Windows, Macintosh

From: EA Bright Light Studios

ESRB Rating: Everyone

For whatever reason - and the title sure doesn't help - Create has been perceived as a genre rival to LittleBigPlanet, a 2-D platformer that has a sequel coming in January that lets people design entire games across a multitude of genres. Create doesn't do that, which naturally makes it sound sorely overmatched.

But Create doesn't do that because it isn't designed to do that. Rather, this is the Incredible Machine for the modern era - a series of simple problems in need of complicated, Rube Goldberg-esque solutions, with a nice helping of physics and other contemporary amenities to freshen up a beloved but long-neglected video game concept.

Create's cheerfully colorful exterior marks it as a game that wants to appeal to all ages, and its first hour - which meticulously introduces the concept and interface through a series of extremely easy problem-solving challenges - might raise some alarms. The interface tutorial is appreciated, because Create's pop-up menu system most definitely requires a period of acclimation before it feels natural. But the extreme ease of the early challenges is enough to ignite concern that this might be nothing more than a Machine imitator that's afraid to challenge people.

Don't worry; it gets better. Create gradually introduces challenges that award players based on their ability to solve multiple objectives or complete a single objective with style or by using as few objects as possible. Every completed challenge introduces new objects into the sandbox, and eventually, those objects introduce new physical properties (magnetism, for instance), combine to form more complex objects (two wheels plus a girder equals a makeshift car), and introduce properties that are harder to predict (a pinball bumper) or come alive in ways that must be harnessed toward completing the goal (rockets, missile-firing tanks). The puzzles reflect the increased complexity through increasingly weird objectives with more variables in play, and Create starts handing out some really good brainteasers halfway through the second zone (of 10).

Though the pop-up menu system isn't the most streamlined of interfaces (tip: Use the D-Pad to rotate and resize the objects, even if that's never communicated in the tutorial), navigating through Create is a mostly pleasant experience. The game makes trial and error a frustration-free endeavor, allowing players to test a solution at any time during its construction and instantly sending them back to the edit screen with a single button press and no loading. A weird but oddly enjoyable decorating component lets armchair designers dress up different zones just for the heck of it, and players can drop objects into each zone (and even the title screen) and freely test their properties toward whatever purpose they please.

That last touch of experimental freedom leads into the one page Create borrows, and borrows well, from the LittleBigPlanet playbook: challenge creation and sharing. Players can devise their own problems using the existing zones or a free-play sandbox, and as long as the problem has a workable solution, they can upload it and share it with friends, strangers, or both. Players also can share solutions to the game's built-in levels and even redecoration blueprints, and a Community Challenge feature tasks players with submitting creative contraptions according to a theme in hopes of getting their design in the game's Hall of Fame. The online features work flawlessly, and provided Create develops its deserved following, they should give the game some very long legs going forward.