Fantastic Contraption

Kids untouched by social brainwashing that starts with TV, continues with our education system, and culminates with the induction into the rat race that serves as modern society, are marvels of ingenuity.

Watch a child figure out how to get into one of those heat-sealed plastic packages and you can almost see the synapses inside his or her little noggin firing on all eights. The kid may not figure out how to get in, put the process of him thinking about it is truly worthy of intense scientific study.

Want more proof? Ask a preschooler, the younger the better, to draw you a picture. If you account for eye-hand coordination processes that are still being established, what you should get is a relatively accurate rendering of the subject at hand. If itis a picture of a face youill likely find a nose with nostrils, eyes with pupils, and a mouth full of individual teeth. Landscapes will feature trees with limbs, birds with feathers, and you may even find blades of grass.

Ask a 1st grader to draw a similar picture and youill likely get stick figures for people, lollipops for trees and faces that are a haphazard collection of dots and lines. Too late, the poor kid has been assimilated.

Though we adults have grown accustomed to our existence as social drones we still harbor vestiges of our earlier, freer, more observant, more creative selves; in todayis world itis called "thinking outside the box."

Itis a strain for many of us, but if we try we can actually come up with some really innovative ways to solve a problem. In fact, if we do a lot of this sort of thinking we will be exercising our unused, puny creative brains and awaken other latent abilities and begin to see the world differently.

Or not.

If the thought of thinking thoughts youive never thunk before intrigues you then you will flip over this installment of A Cool Waste Of Time.

Puzzle games have long been one of the tools used to pump up a flaccid id because the really good one force you to find answers where you would not normally look.

One of the best ways to boost creative brain power is to work open puzzles -- puzzles that have no set path to an answer. In other words, the puzzle gives you a goal and lets you come up with any means to reach it.

Such is the concept behind Fantastic Contraption. The object of the game is simple: use the tools provided to get an object from one place to another. Thatis it.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, it is. You have four "devices" which do basic things: A wheel that turns clockwise, another wheel that turns counterclockwise, a third wheel that spins only when pushed, and two types of stick tools that can be attached to the wheels in different fashion. Get the pink thingy into the pink area on the screen and the puzzle is solved.

As with all puzzle games, this one starts off easy so you can get the feel of the the environment, but as the levels progress youill find it increasingly difficult to get pink thingy A to Pink area B. But then, thatis what makes Fantastic Contraption such a blast to play. You solve one puzzle and you feel psyched enough to try another, then another. Before you know it, itis 2:30 in the morning and your significant other is packing the kids in the car and promising divorce.

This weird contraption should bridge the gap nicely.

If you find that you are just brimming with creative juices then try your hand at designing your own levels or try out the designs from other players.

Be warned, creative thinking can have its bad points, not the least of which is its addictiveness. So, you should understand that it is not a good idea to call in sick just so you can play this game. And bathing is not a suggestion.

We thought you should know.

Now go have fun with Fantastic Contraption. You kid.