The App Store is full of physics-based games, but most of them are puzzles. You may be cutting ropes or launching birds or assembling wacky vehicles, but it’s rare that you get the freedom to build whatever you like. For better or worse, that freedom is what Creatorverse has in spades.
Creatorverse was developed by Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life. For almost ten years, this virtual world has been a haven for personalities who would rather build new objects than run around hacking digital orcs. That sensibility is encouraged in this app; creating and sharing are front and center from the moment you start it up.
Like a drawing app, Creatorverse launches into a blank workspace with palettes of shapes and colors. Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear what to do next. There is no tutorial, the icons don’t tell you much, and the help screens are rudimentary pictograms. The only way to learn the app is through trial and error.
Puny human, prepare to die.
After some experimentation, you’ll find the controls let you draw a variety of simple shapes and lines. You can draw just about anything you like with these, though unless you’re an artist the results will look pretty crude.
You can also select a shape and choose one of several functions from the bottom of the screen. These functions allow the shape to move, teleport, react to being tapped, rotate, or interact with other shapes on the screen. Again, you’ll have to tinker with each function to learn what it does and what its limitations are. There is also a connector piece that lets you hook two different shapes together. It works a lot like the big connecting rods attached to the wheels on an old steam train. Put all these elements together and you can build a lot of different stuff.
At any time while you build, you can tap the “play” button to see your creation in action. The shapes start moving and interacting according to the conditions and connections you’ve established. You can also drag shapes around and trigger effects. The easy back-and-forth between “build” and “test” is one of the program’s best features.
Not that starboard, your other starboard.
It’s also easy to share your creations and look at the work of others. A few taps will take you to a skyscape full of other users’ toys; a few more will put those toys in your workspace where you can tear them apart and modify them to your heart’s content.
Creatorverse gives you enough power and flexibility to build pinball machines, simple animated characters, and who knows what else. What it doesn’t do is give you the rules and scripts that could make your machines into games or other logical devices. You can play pinball, but you can’t keep score, or even run out of balls. A skilled builder may be able to overcome this and build the kind of analog computing you see in games like Minecraft, but that’s a lot of work to do in a little app.
If you love building and tinkering, or you want to show the kids a few basic tricks of physics, then Creatorverse is a fun tool to mess around with. Everyone else may want to stick with the toys that have winners and high scores.