Imagine being an experiment stuck inside a lab all day while strangers poked and prodded at you hoping to learn something. Even worse imagine being built for a purpose that only your creators understand, leaving your life at the mercy of a bunch of people who just want to see how you tick. Now imagine going completely psychotic, escaping the lab, and embarking on a killing spree while trying to get away. That would be really vindicating, right?! Well, that is exactly what’s happening in CreatorCrate and I’ve been indulging in this slightly weird scenario. It’s been fun, to say the least, but now I’m going to have to stop butchering scientists and tell you all about it.
So, in CreatorCrate, you play a murderous box with legs and a severe eating problem. This particular box uses matter to make new things. As long as it’s created a blueprint of an item it can replicate it. This is a very useful skill but not congenial to the health of any living beings around you. What are living beings made out of? You guessed it! Matter!
This is a roguelike puzzle-platforming adventure and I’m completely here for it. For a change you aren’t trying to kill something far superior in skill, (and life,) than you are, while getting killed off a lot in the process. Here all you need to do is escape a lab, on a space station. This would be a fantastically easy task if the building wasn’t chock-full of lethal traps, killer robots, and gun-wielding security guards. In fact, you’d almost think they were completely expecting something to go horribly wrong before it did. That, or someone has very carelessly left pits of boiling acid strewn about the place. I mean, that sort of thing is a health and safety nightmare waiting to happen.
I’m a little bit torn with this title. I think a lot of this boils down to my not being very good at platformers. I’m relatively easily frustrated and, for me, the controls in this genre, while usually very simple always feel a bit fiddly. A lot of this comes from having to place something that’s moving rather quickly onto a platform that, while not moving at all, isn’t always very big. These platforms are usually placed above something lethal or next to something life-ending, meaning overshooting them is just as bad as missing them completely. This is just a comment on the stationary ones, don’t get me started on the moving or disappearing type.
CreatorCrate has all of the above in spades and is controlled with a mouse and keyboard which, although true to form for classic PC games doesn’t help with the sensation of your fingers getting wrapped in knots. A gamepad, while rather more modern is also slightly more accurate. So, the controls, although fitting for the aesthetic, weren’t the best for me. That, or I just suck, which is of course, entirely possible but I’d want the controls to make my life easier and they didn’t.
The aesthetic is really quite important for CreatorCrate. This is a very retro-styled game when it comes down to its art direction and this is something that I really like. What I think I like most here is that it doesn’t feel like a game trying to be retro. If I’d picked this up in the late 90s I would have been very happy with what I got. This isn’t just down to the look. The dialogue is well written and good use of text boxes enhances the overall feel. You can really see that the devs have picked a direction they want to go in and stuck with it, which is to be applauded.
The mechanics in CreatorCrate are certainly interesting. The ability to absorb items and recreate them as needed is a novel one. The bits of furniture that you eat when remade make very handy bullet shields and clubs. You’d be amazed at how effective launching a filing cabinet at the back of someone’s head is. If you create a gun, well, you have a gun. It’s loaded too which is highly useful when literally everyone else around you is armed and wanting to end you. So, in a nutshell, you literally give yourself the tools you need to survive. Speaking of which, you can also use the matter you’ve absorbed to heal yourself. There is a certain balancing act here though. If you’ve used all your matter up on keeping yourself alive you can’t use it to make weapons, and… keep yourself alive. These are the sort of things that you need to have in your head at all times while you’re playing.
I mentioned roguelike elements earlier. Aside from certain story-based areas the map reshuffles every time you die. This is actually a good thing. Apart from keeping things fresh, this also means that if you hit an area that you’re really struggling with, the likelihood is that it won’t be there on your next playthrough. This sort of thing doesn’t make the game any easier but alleviates the monotony that comes with getting stuck on the same puzzle or room. The potential downside here is that all the enemies reshuffle too. This means that one minute you might just be facing a few guards, the next you have some pretty meaty robots and drones in your way. Well, everything can’t be perfect right?
This game feels quite open, in that you can go anywhere in the complex that’s open to you. The game sort of lets you know if you’re entering an area too early though by the number of much harder enemies you’re facing. With this comes the feeling that you really need to learn from your own mistakes. You kind of know when you’re moving along the right path by the prevalence of dialogue and the feel that although difficult, the area you’re in is the correct level of difficulty.
This is all great because CreatorCrate gives you a good level of room to explore without making it too obvious that you’re doing right or wrong. Actually having to use that thing between your ears is quite refreshing. A lot of roguelikes feel quite linear even though the levels are procedural. CreatorCrate has more of a Metroidvania feel to it, even though this game doesn’t necessarily sit in that genre.
One thing I certainly will say about CreatorCrate is it’s addictive. Coming back to my point earlier about being insanely bad at platformers, I usually don’t last very long when playing them. What usually happens is I get killed off a bunch of times, (often on account of my own failings,) and give up. This game is quirky and enjoyable enough that I really wanted to see what was going to happen next, so persevered. I can’t stress how much of a plus point this is. If I want to keep playing a game that I know I’m not really good at, just think how much fun those of you that have cut your gaming teeth on titles like this are going to have.
All in all, CreatorCrate is a game that’s a lot of fun. If you’re looking for something new in your favorite genre that is boasting some creative mechanics that actually work this could be a very good call. Is CreatorCrate going to be the next blockbuster? No, it’s not. Is it something that you can lose an awful lot of time just playing about with and get a few good laughs along the way, be it at your own expense or because the game is genuinely funny? Yes, and I think that’s more important. Coming from someone who isn’t a platform fan, this is a great game that I’m going to continue coming back and not being very good at for some time to come.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
It's a matter of fun!
Platforming as it should be
Challenging, fun, and a wee bit different, CreatorCrate ticks all the boxes. This isn’t the next world-beating opus but it does the things it’s designed to do very well. If you love a good platformer, you’re looking for something a tad different, or both; you could do worse than spend your time here.