It’s hard to demonstrate virtual reality games in video, because most of the good ones depend upon them being viewed through a headset and not via a flat YouTube embed. This latest footage of Fantastic Contraption [official site] finds a good route though by alternating between video captured in-game, in-headset and via a secondary camera looking at the room which blends real and game footage together.
Which sounds confusing, but in practice it’s remarkable for both how seamless it looks and for what a good job it does conveying how fun and natural it looks to construct the game’s weird machinery.
Fantastic Contraption is a virtual reality successor to one of Colin Northway’s old games, which had the same name and premise but was 2D and ran in your browser. That premise is that you must build a physics-animated moving machine that can accomplish a goal, which is normally getting from A to B while navigating any obstacles in its way. In the example above, the obstacle is a pile of primitive shapes scattered across the track. The player tries to build a machine to overcome it by clicking together spinning wheels and struts with different kinds of properties and connections. When finished, they click a button, the simulation comes to life, the wheels start turning, and the machine either conquers the objective or – more likely – folds itself into a small ball and falls into the void.
There are a lot of games about much the same thing – including Northway’s own Incredipede, in which you had to construct living creatures of muscle and bone rather than mechanical objects – but Fantastic Contraption seems to be gaining as much from its motion controls as it does from VR. I like towards the end when a new plan prompts Sarah Northway to pull out a giant pin and start popping all the different parts of her existing work.
I like also that her in-game avatar is a weird lookin’ duck.
We cover virtual reality a fair whack, but it’s not that often we get to write about an actual game that’s coming for VR. I hope this is good.