The Fantastic Contraption 1 and 2 are two of the most fun ‘thinking games’ on the web today. Reminiscent of an older game called The Incredible Machine, The Fantastic Contraption will have you concentrating on puzzles of logic, physics, geometry and more.
The bright colors in the interface make it feel far more like a game and much less like learning but even so, you’ll find your brain power increases as you play these games.
Years ago, when PC gaming was still wobbling like a toddler down the digital hallway toward a cookie jar full of bits and bytes, there was a great series of games that allowed the player to build and modify 2d examples of Rube Goldberg machines that couldn’t exist in real life.
These games had a very brief underground success and then were replaced with The Incredible Machine series of games, which were very similar but inherently better due to the available technology upgrades. Now is the year of the Fantastic Contraption!
As updates to an already proven gaming concept, TFC1&2 are both excellent examples of how ‘casual’ or ‘web’ games can have a lot more depth and complexity than their flat, 2D graphics would perhaps indicate at first glance. The basis of the game is so simple that even a child can understand it (and, indeed, there are many children getting a massive dose of smarts from playing TFC!). In TFC2, for example, your goal is to get a pink wheel inside a pink box. How you manage to do that is up to you, based on the different tools that they give you. Each tool is logical and has something to do with basic engineering, like wheels that rotate in only one direction or ‘water lines’ that act as belts to drive those wheels.
The tools also include things like magnets at later stages but they don’t want to overwhelm you at first. So, by putting together these different tools (which remind me an awful lot of digital tinker toys) you can move the pink wheel over, around, and through different obstacles and puzzles. Simple in concept, yes, but the end result is an almost limitless open ended game that has layers of depth and complexity far beyond what you’d expect for such a pastel game.
The contraptions you’ll build in TFC are certainly more realistic than the ones you’d have seen in The Incredible Machine, so the critical thinking and problem solving skills that you will use to progress through levels in TFC will carry over into real life better. There’s not likely to be a whole lot of times in your life you will need to light a candle to burn a string and get a bowling ball to fall onto a springboard which launches a mouse into a hole (as in The Incredible Machine) but there are likely to be times in your real life that you will need to understand things like torque, leverage, work vs. power, and other basic physics concepts that you will learn, almost by accident, in TFC. That means, to me, it’s a far better choice for trying to get my kids to play an educational game. It also means that TFC is likely to keep my attention a bit longer. As you continue through levels, you’ll face new challenges and familiar ones, like only being able to work in the blue square, or having to dodge moving objects like cars. The level of difficulty rises but the basic concept and actual steps of gameplay stay the same, giving this freeware game a bit more in the way of stability than most of the other ‘quirk’ games of this type.
Overall, The Fantastic Contraption 1 and 2 are both great games, though my favorite would be the second one. They help you learn without seeming to help you learn, and the bottom line is they are just fun to play. Each challenge presented to you can be solved in tons of different ways so each level has a much higher replayability than other games that aren’t so open ended with their solutions. Fun, educational, and totally free, makes a happy gamer out of me. Both of them are part of the Kongregate gaming site, which will allow you to sign up for a free account that will track your efforts and let you interact with other community members but membership is in no way required to play the games, as of the time of this article’s posting. It’s a nice option, but not demanded. Both of the games are worth checking out if you like puzzles of any kind, or if you’re looking for something a bit more analytical than the latest penguin massacre game.
Until next time, my friends.
[Thanks to reader Panzer for the tip about these games].