Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review: Create

Developer: EA Bright Light
Publisher: EA

A lot of game executives looked around about a year ago and notice that while they were each sitting on a fairly decent pile of cash, Nintendo was rolling around naked in money a la Indecent Proposal. Independently of each other, they decided that they would like to be rolling around naked in money as well and decided to copy what they perceived to be Nintendo’s strategy: Go after non-gamers and make super-simple games for them while using peripherals such as motion controls.

Most companies have found that this strategy hasn’t really worked, since that wasn’t really Nintendo’s strategy after all. That secret is closely guarded in a pocket hidden within Satoru Iwata’s underpants. However, that doesn’t stop companies from trying.

The latest attempt at reach a wide family-friendly audience is EA’s Create. It purports to be a game that’s all about accessibility and solving problems using only the blob of grey stuff in your head. How does it turn out? Let’s find out.

You Must First Create The Universe

Create has two major parts to it: A bunch of challenges and an overworld that you can decorate. During the challenges, they’ll present you with, say, a gas can and ask you to get it onto the back of a truck. They’ll present with a few tools, like a motorbike and a couple of ramps. It’s your job to figure out how to work it all together. If you solve it, you get a “spark,” and collecting enough of those unlocks the next world.

In the overworld, you’re presented with a place, like a circus. They’ll ask you to, make a “Create Chain,” meaning they want you to place a certain amount of objects on the world. For instance, they’ll want you to color in some of the blank textures with whatever available texture you choose: Grass, brick, concrete, polka dots and the like. They’ll want you to place some items, like maybe Ferris wheels, trucks, animals or whatever. Once you’ve placed enough, they’ll reward you with another spark.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering where the “creation” comes in. That’s just it: You don’t really do any creating. You use the items that the game gives you to solve puzzles or add stuff into the world. You don’t get to change the world itself. You’re just adding little bits and pieces to it.

On top of that, the puzzles don’t really give you a lot of options. Most of the ones I played presented you with a few items and told you to solve the problem using JUST those items. There were cases when I would realize that there was the PERFECT item to solve the puzzle but the game wouldn’t let me use it. I would have to jury-rig a solution using parts that I didn’t really want to use. Now, they may be thinking that limitations breed creativity, but they really don’t. It just makes Create reminiscent of those bad 90’s adventure games that demand that you use nightmare-dream logic in order to solve a puzzle when there’s a much more viable solution that they won’t let you use.

The controls also don’t do Create any favors. I used a Dualshock controller to play Create and found the menus horribly unintuitive. You may be thinking that if I used the Move controller maybe I would find the menus easier. However, using the Move controller wouldn’t change the underlying bass-ackward menu organization that mars Create.

Here’s how the menu is divided: Environment tools, game objects, brush tools and world tools. What’s the difference between an environment tool and a world tool? Beats me. After playing through several of the levels, I still couldn’t always find the tool that I needed and had to back in and out of several menus before I found the right one. It’s also important to know that I have 25 years of experience navigating in-game menus and still struggled.

You’ll also have to use these menus A LOT. In fact, the whole game is menu-driven. How could you take the main part of the game and screw it up so badly? It would be like a Halo game accidentally remapping the fire button to moving the left control stick backwards and mapping the movement controls to the D-pad, then not allowing you to change it at all. Microsoft would never let the product out of the front door. How did EA let this one go without some major overhauling?

When writing this review, I feared that maybe I was overthinking things. Maybe I was expecting Create to be something that it wasn’t. However, with a name like “Create” there are certain expectations. If someone buys this off the shelf, they will see words like “imagination!” and brightly-colored swirls of paint beckoning them to a world of magic and wonder. When they find that they’re doing what amounts to painting a dollhouse, I have a feeling that they’ll be disillusioned.

Final Grade: D

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