This is not a horrible game, but I simply cannot recommend this game, because the terrible design choices kept piling up and frustrating me. It's a close call and I wanted to like this, but I just can't.
Let's get the positives out of the way. Contraption Maker is a modern take on a true nostalgia bomb, The Incredible Machine (TIM). And thankfully the core gameplay is virtually unchanged. There is a decent variety of parts, often with clever multiple uses. I'm only really missing magnets and variably gravities from the original game. The coloured lasers are easily the highlight in terms of parts design and a great addition with many interesting uses. The physics are perfectly deterministic and there is no randomness. There is a ton of content with about 250 premade levels with a very gentle learning curve. There are also a few open-ended sandbox challenges, some of which I found particularly appealing and well designed. All of that content is accessible from the get-go - there is no gating or getting stuck. On top of that you have a full level editor with Workshop support. The game also still seems to be in active development, with new parts added infrequently. For the amount of content and hours of gameplay the price is more than fair, especially on sale.
And while the core gameplay is still good, even decades after TIM, the implementation has suffered greatly. Contraption Maker's UI is awful and the way you interact with the game is more often than not very frustrating.
Before I looked into it, I was convinced, this was a badly managed mobile port. Yes, the UI is so atrocious, that any competent mobile port would easily outclass it. There are huge intensely-coloured buttons everywhere, often without tool-tips and with very unclear non-descript icons. And sometimes they light up but nothing happens if you hit them in the wrong spot. In-game there is a handful of very basic and ill-assigned hotkeys ("Space" toggles panning, which you'll never use; "R" runs your contraption, which you'll use every 20 seconds), but none of the menus support keyboard (not even for a simple "next level"). The levels are organised in different groups of 25, roughly by difficulty and then arranged on pages of 6 with huge previews. And yes, that means every category has a single level on the otherwise empty 5th page, as if two different people had decided the amount and the layout without talking to each-other. By the way, the menus remember your position. That is the position you were at when you started playing, not the positon you're currently at, so get used to flipping pages. If you only click "next level", the categories are strung together seamlessly. If you then go back to menu you don't even know where you left off. While the levels themselves show whether you've completed them or not, the categories do not. So to find your current level you have to click each category, scan the whole screen for all 6 levels on each page, flip to the fifth page and then check the next category until you finally find the level you want. The game makes some distinction between puzzles and contraptions, each having community levels, but each menus allowing access to the same sandbox levels, which the achievements call "scenarios". Terminology, menu layouts, GUI - everything's just a huge mess. This development team badly needed a professional UI designer.
The page-flipping menus hit peak frustration when looking at the Workshop integration. Still 6 levels per page, of which there are literally hundreds and each takes several seconds to load just while browsing. There is no way to sort by user rating or difficulty. The parts list in the editor is sorted with no governing principle whatsoever and is not searchable. There is an undo button for the currently active layer, but there is no undo button and even no safety prompt when it comes to deleting entire layers of scenery.
The handling of parts is generally finnicky (but especially in the editor or sandbox levels, since all of them are movable in those). For how often I had to use ropes and belts I never figured out the sweet spot. It felt utterly random whether I got the belt or the gear and usually I was always the one I didn't want. The amount of misclicks in this game is honestly staggering. Speaking of gears - why is there no easy indication in which direction a motor or gear will rotate? Making that not easily apparent is just wasting your time via trial-and-error. There is a grid parts snap to until they randomly decide to completely ignore it. Rotations were even more finnicky than placements. You can't pause simulations to analyse them. In fact clicking anywhere will immediately abort the simulation, which I never got used to. Your main way of interacting with parts are buttons around them in fixed and variable locations. The latter can hide behind the former. And if you're designing close to the edge of the level, the buttons will frequently be invisible outside of the level boundaries, which means you need to pan into the black void that surrounds each level (why does that even exist?) just to adjust your parts.
I've mentioned that there are well over 200 levels. But about 100 of them are basically tutorials or heavily oriented towards small children. After 120 levels the handholding stops and the game gets interesting. Unfortunately for all the tutorialisation you almost immediately run into required mechanics the game has never taught you and which don't exactly make sense. Would you have guessed that a hamster running in a wheel counter-clockwise can stop a clockwise operating electric motor? Thankfully the game allows you to access the intended solutions which might act as a nifty hint system, except of course it's only available after completing the level on your own. Of the 250 odd official levels, not many puzzles actually hit the sweet spot where they are sufficiently challenging but not frustratingly obscure. Appropriately, the game's achievements are also a mess, forcing you to grind thousands of balloon pops or similarly useless stuff.
Graphically he original TIM had a really nice 2D charm to it with very memorable sprites. Crazy Machines (another spiritual successor) had a really nice 3D polish to it. Contraption Maker has neither. It's mostly ugly, especially in the animated models. The prominently featured animals look deformed and overly simplified. And why do cats flip onto their backs when falling? The scale is also completely off (humans are the size of mouses and dwarved by cats) as if there was no art direction.
The developers are apparently still adding more content, which is always great, but it doesn't address the many fundamental problems with design. This being fairly actively developed and the game coming from the team behind the original TIM makes all these terrible design and handling choices and why they aren't fixed all the more baffling. Well, until you realize the lead developer Jeff Tunnell literally ended his career over this game, frankly stating that he found himself completely out of touch with how modern game marketing works.
And indeed, this game does feel like the brain child of someone completely out of touch with average players and how to provide an enjoyable experience to them. Sure, the core gameplay is good and does provide entertainment - but then again, that was already the case in TIM, about 25 years ago. This confused mess on the other hand makes the interaction with the game so frustrating, that I'm not sure it's an upgrade over TIM. I thought I'd get used to the poor handling and design. I 20 hours I never did. Personally I wouldn't spend money on this.
It you liked Incredible Machines You will love this game. A good brain teaser and puzzle solver. 8/10 Pros: -Plenty of parts to use -Cost is low -Lots puzzzles from the game as well as community -can make time fly -Higkhly addictive