Casa Rara encourages you to delve into that creative abyss you call imagination. Can’t think of what to make? You can blame video games for that, rotting your brain and maker juices. With Mini Maker: Make A Thing, there are no clear worktops, blank pages or thumb-twiddling on what to do. Considering the materials you’re working with, you have to make do.
After playing Model Builder (highly recommended if you’re a fan of Airfix, Games Workshop and other hobbies that won’t get you a girlfriend), I was expecting a bit more autonomy. Here it’s random. If you’re a fan of symmetry, wait for the panic attacks to kick in as you’re given a little tray of bits and bobs to glue onto your thing’s chassis. Order is not an option.
First impressions weren’t all that great as there’s a restriction on what you can do, and almost all the starting models come with a skateboard for some reason. However, the spotlight’s on you, and the developers could argue that the old cliche that your imagination is the only limitation. With that in mind, I mostly winged it at first – to unlock new challenges, but more importantly, items.
Mini Maker: Make A Thing serves a range of challenges. You’ll buy parts from the local shop, which resembles a loot-type experience as what you receive is random, but it pays to have objects from each category to get the most XP and cash for future builds. You can still go ahead with your crafting even if you don’t have all the items; you’ll just get fewer benefits.
Before the challenge will be the option to play an XP card, plus a quick reminder of what items are required. Then it’s time to open the can of worms. The first step in Mini Maker: Make A Thing is assembling the pieces, paying attention to the parts with modifiers and incorporating them into your build. Juicy elements tend to be the best. Once you’ve placed enough parts, you’ll unlock the colour options, including brushes, spray painting, filling and stickers.
Stickers can switch things up again, but the painting makes it much more enjoyable. That is, if you have a steady hand. Unlike real life, it’s hard to be accurate with the spray paint, and it covers the whole model, so expect some fiddly mouse movements. Once the painting is done, it’s time to add features such as eyes, mouth and nose to finish it. That’s when your model comes alive. Oh, and while all of this is going on, objects will float about for you to click on that award new decorative items, money, and occasionally a key to fast track to the next section (you can’t immediately colour your model – you have to earn each step).
In the end, Mini Maker: Make A Thing is a mess. You can blame the developers or take ownership for your monstrosity, Dr Frankenstein. Once you’ve finished, there’ll be a snapshot of your model with the option to see another creature by another play. Y’know, to get you in the crotch and confirm that you can make something incredible if you apply yourself. While I consider myself a creative type and now tinkering a bit more with the ‘maker’ persona that the internet has produced these past few years, Mini Maker: Make A Thing didn’t entirely resonate.
First, it’s the severity of making something without an undo option. One of the best things about the digital medium is you can go back a step when making a mistake, and there’s no residue. You can’t ‘unspray’ a model, disassemble a head you’ve accidentally glued into the abdomen (but admittedly looks like something out of The Thing, a.k.a. cool), or even get some sort of balance. No doubt that goes against the grain of Mini Maker: Make A Thing mission statement – it’s all about spontaneity, expression, and ultimately, creativity.
Despite my stance due to being pretty anal about conformity when it comes to art (let’s say ‘rigid’ so I’m not a complete square), Mini Maker: Make A Thing is an interesting concept, and there’s nothing out there that compares. It’s almost like getting a bit box of LEGO and seeing what you come up with, but here the pieces are limited, so you have to think and experiment. Just be mindful that there’s no eraser at the end of the pencil. Ignore my complaints; check this out if you’re looking for something truly bespoke.