Preview: Gadgeteer – 21st Century Dominoes

As a kid, there was always great fun to be had building weird and wonderful creations with Lego, or designing elaborate courses with Domino Rally. However, there were annoying things in the way to stop that imagination going wild, you know, real-world effects like gravity for example (or a parent’s unwillingness to have the entire living room covered in carefully balanced plastic pieces). Nowadays there are no such issues, thanks to an awesome technology called virtual reality (VR) and titles like Metanaut’s Gadgeteer.

Gadgeteer is a physics-based puzzle experience which allows you to build chain reaction machines (commonly known as Rube Goldberg machines), where you have the choice of completing a series of single-player challenges or simply going wild in a sandbox mode.

Featuring a very clean cut contemporary design in both the UI and the apartment environment where the entire videogame is based, Gadgeteer is equally toy and learning tool combined. Three tools are all you need to work some creative magic, one for grabbing and moving items, one for copying them and one for deleting them. While it’s tempting to head straight for the sandbox mode and play, with over 50 objects to use the training and story modes are well worth a gander.

There is a vague story about a mad scientist and her daughter who have both disappeared, however, it’s rather inconsequential when you really start to get involved in the gameplay. The main campaign helps to introduce all the pieces in a leisurely fashion, with a rather substantial 60 levels to complete. Each has its own particular tiles, ramps, corners, funnels and other objects to help build the necessary courses. The structured nature of the mode is great if you’re stuck for ideas when it comes to the sandbox mode, weaving its way around the apartment.

These puzzles are on the small size, placed around books or across shelves. Gadgeteer’s centrepiece is the sandbox mode and this is where you need to be careful; many an hour can be lost in here (in a good way). With a fully realised apartment – living room, bedroom, kitchen, the works – there’s complete freedom to envision all manner of contraptions using the assortment of objects. Unlike the campaign, there are no limitations to how many times one piece can be used.

Careful planning is a must. The controls are fluid and easy to grasp, objects can be rested on furniture or frozen mid-air depending on what can be made. Plus there are undo and play buttons when things go wrong or it’s time to get the machine started. Because the contraptions involve marbles, everything needs to be lined up just so. There’s no snap feature allowing certain items to lock together for a nice smooth run, which can mean if a section is just slightly out the entire machine might not work. That’s not a moan or a negative, just a statement that attention to the little details helps.

If there was a negative it would simply be towards the videogame’s physics. In that, something may work great the first time and then suddenly not the next (this is Early Access after all).

There are certain VR experiences that allow you to get really lost in the moment. Where a quick half-hour gameplay session could turn into hours, and Gadgeteer undoubtedly has that ability. This isn’t a videogame for those who don’t have the patience and time. It’s for those that do. And if that sounds like you then Gadgeteer is well worth a look. Plus, Gadgeteer could be on track to be one of the best VR puzzle titles in 2019.

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