There are a bunch of games were you get stuck in a level and that's the end of it. Before online walkthroughs appeared like mushrooms, your only choice was to look for the answer on a games magazine or ask your friends. This time, Game Center does a great job adding a social element to one of these tricky games allowing users to share their solutions with their friends.
Casey's Contraptions [iTunes Link] by Snappy Touch and Mystery Coconut Games is a physics puzzler where you help young Casey to retrieve his toys designing rather complex contraptions. Every level starts on pause mode, allowing you to think where to place toys and gadgets to complete each of the tasks. You can place, for instance, some pipes to conduct a snooker ball to a basket, and then have that basket to hit a pile of books and so on. Once you are happy with the result, you can hit the play button, see the gravitational forces in action, and find out if your contraption is as clever as you thought it would be.
Divided in short levels across three scenarios (classroom, backyard and bedroom), you are introduced to new game mechanics and objects slowly to get the hang of it. Once you have learned basic positioning rules, how to flip objects and realise that you don't need to use every item, the level design is complex enough to have you trying different solutions before you get it right.
In a similar fashion to other casual games, the score is based on a three start system. In Casey's Contraptions, you'll only get the highest score is your objects manage to touch every star in the level during the operation of your contraption. This adds some depth to the game and the gives some extra replay value to the initial levels. You can always return and try to get the highest score with a new contraption design, but unfortunately there are no Game Center achievements for using the least amount of gadgets or any particular goal other than solving the task.
If you have been following Mystery Coconut's blog -highly recommended, you probably have some idea of the cartoony graphic style chosen for the game. When you first see it, it looks like a children's game, but it's perfectly appealing to adults too. The design in general is beautiful and I specially appreciate the extra care taken in the menus.
I have already mentioned the role of magazine game guides had in the 90s. I'm glad Snappy Touch found a good use for Game Center, implementing a way to share solutions for every level with your contacts. Let's say you get stuck and can't find a solution for a level. Well, you can always cheat and see how Casey solved that particular one or get some help from your Game Center friends. Within the level itself, you can go and check the solution your friends have posted to get the three stars on a level. This adds a social element that I only have seen in Bulkypix's Burn it All so far.
Casey's Contraptions also comes with a level editor where you can use the items you have already unlocked in the game. This adds a new gameplay mode and also gives you the opportunity to share your creations with friends. A nice touch indeed!
As far as iOS gaming goes, only Max and the Magic Marker gets close enough to the production value and polish seen in Casey's Contraptions. They both share some common elements including the graphic style, interaction with a pause mode and a free design element to it. If you like the aesthetics and a relaxed gameplay experience, you probably want to play them both.
Overall, I like the simple premise of creating your own solution without the need of sticking to the standard one. The sharing tool is implemented brilliantly and gives you the motivation to create unique three-star solutions to show off with your friends. Perhaps the concept isn't new, but nobody has brought this experience to iOS yet, and I doubt there will be a contender with this level of refinement anytime soon in the puzzle genre on the App Store.
Casey's Contraptions will frustrate at times, but you won't have the burden of a secret solution on your shoulders. In fact, cheating will only motivate you to find your own way around a level. Clever idea, lovely design, and superb UI for a great game that can be only improved with extra contents in future updates.
Last month I had the opportunity to play one of the most anticipated iPad games of the year: Casey's Contraptions. Despite facing strong competition from Disney's Incredible Machine—launched on the App Store a couple of weeks later—Apple continued to feature it prominently.
Without doubt, one of the most attractive features in the game is the option to share your contraptions with other players and check out other solutions created by others. With its first update, Casey's Contraptions has a web-based contraptions portal where you can check out contraptions directly from your browser.
The idea is that you access the website with your iPad, tap on the screenshot of a contraption you wan tot use, and the app will automatically load it. Very neat. It reminds me of Blockees, a physics puzzler where players can also design their own levels and share them online. At a time where casual games developers keep adding levels with updates, the opportunity to have users to create their own opens the virtual door to endless replay value.
The developers have also mentioned that they're working on an iPhone version, so keep tuned if you still haven't had a chance to try this game.