The family-friendly sector of the industry is awash with harmlessly dull games, so a quick glance at EA Bright Light's Create and you get something distinctively less straight lace: a free-form puzzle-platformer/level-designer for kids to make user-generated content with.
Part puzzle-platformer, the name of the game is generally to get one object from the side of the room to another by using one of many items in your tool kit to create a lite, kid-simple Rube Goldberg machine. Part level-designer, the game allows you to design different basic game environments and puzzles. Locations include a space deck, a Dune-style sand planet, a theatre and more. Change the colour of the sky with paint and draw tools, then splat multi-coloured nebulae or snowflakes across the screen with one of the pre-made brushes. Add graffiti to walls, or select a flower brush and sweep that across a platform to populate it with flowers. Chuck in dinosaurs, cats, trolls.
The kiss of death so far has been its similarity to other titles across the board. There's a dash of LittleBigPlanet there in the design concept, there's a hint of Scribblenauts, there's a wallop of The Incredible Machine. Google Create and you're going to see Media Molecule mentioned in every preview at least once by sentence seven. It's a legitimate issue, not because kids have the jaded mentality of journalists but because Create isn't nearly as creative as the titles it will be mistaken for.
Puzzles are catered to families so their difficulty setting is set more for dads and aunts and kid-siblings and less for lateral thinkers. So when I was shown one of the featured puzzles it seemed almost detrimentally accessible. Shoot a rocket ship from one platform to another using any number of objects in your tool kit. Aim it toward a kind of circular portal above the next platform. With a series of magnets, bombs, and a spring-based boxing glove we could punch the rocket forward, watch it hover in between lines of magnets then explode up into the platform portal. It's a trial and error task with little in the way of error because puzzles can be solved in such a multitude of ways.
Which is why it's not quite right to think of this as strictly a puzzle platformer. In fact Create simply sets to do pretty much what it says on the tin. It's a creation game that challenges you to find various imaginative ways to solve fairly basic puzzles. You're given tools to solve them in as creative a way as you can come up with by throwing together items and seeing how they interact.
On the same hand it's not strictly a design tool because rather than encourage you to create your own artistic designs it tries to sort the issue of those players handicapped by a lack of actual artistic skill. So you're offered sets of pre-made textures, brushes, objects, stickers and backgrounds that you tinker about with as opposed to editing tools to make complex designs. Like Incredible Machine this is a game largely about spending your time tinkering away to find the best routes to solve the puzzle, and to cater to that feeling of total satisfaction when watching every piece of the Goldberg machine fall into play.
The carrot on the stick are further unlocks. Successfully solve one level and you'll have more brushes and objects to work with. More objects and you can create even more complicated scenarios. Then share it all online, be it new levels or successful solutions to old levels. Xbox 360, PS3 and PC versions will let you interact with the rest of the community via the official Create website, www.create.ea.com, while Wii has you fend for yourself. But it's a fun title, the kind of thing you would spend hours fiddling about with to discover what is and isn't possible to do with your tool set. Spend the first six minutes filling your platform with dinosaurs and then spend the next half hour filling the gaps with bombs and cats. You'll mine your inventory of objects to make more extensive and varied puzzle solutions. Regardless of whether or not it will continue to be stuck in the shadow of its more successful puzzle-creation brethren it seems to marry accessibility and compulsiveness well enough to carve out a little nook of its own in its genre.
Create is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii in November.