Crayon Physics Deluxe Reviewed

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I have fairly vivid recollections of sitting behind sheets of paper – crayons in hand…lost in a waxy, magical world of my own devise. My ill-developed motor skills ensured that my creations more resembled Picasso’s dog’s vomit than the intended subjects. My imagination though allowed my daffodil-yellow stickman hero save the carnation-pink stickgirl princess from the burnt-sierra monster blob. That was last week. This week I’ve been playing Crayon Physics Deluxe.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is the winner of the Seumas McNally grand prize winner at 2008’s Independent Games Festival, beating the critically acclaimed “World of Goo” and “Audiosurf.”

Its premise is simple; guide the red ball to one or more yellow stars. The manner in which this is accomplished is where the magic lies – Objects drawn with your crayon mouse cursor come to life on your yellowed-paper screen, and it’s these you must use to transport the ball to its goal. These objects have the physical properties you’d expect. Draw a ball on a hill and it is willed in to existence – complete with weight, gravity, friction and momentum – rolling down the hill until Newton’s laws dictate its inertia. In compliance with these immutable laws, it’ll only move again through the application of external force, conjured by your own hand. A simple right-click removes anything you’ve drawn from the screen

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This is realised as a game by presenting it as a series of islands, with each island becoming accessible by gaining the requisite amount of stars, much like a Mario outing. A basic understanding of physics will allow you to construct a seemingly endless number of solutions to every level. A simple tutorial level on each of these islands introduces these mechanics for those of you who opted to take Home Economics instead. Attach a plank to the apex of a triangle and you’ve created a primitive see-saw; a rope swung over a wheel, attached on either end to a weight and counterweight nets you a rudimentary pulley system; affix two crudely drawn wheels to a box and you’ve made one vehicle more than Chrysler has this year…

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The Princess is in another videogame

There are echoes here of the “The Incredible Machine” games, only you’re not bound or constricted by a limited tool set. Anything you draw becomes animated, ready to interact with anything already on screen. Indeed, it’s this mechanic that sets Crayon Physics Deluxe apart from current indie darlings “World of Goo” and “Braid” (both of which are excellent games in their own right), and most puzzle games in general. Where in other games you’re pandering to the genius and creativity of the game’s creators in an effort to reach their intended solution, Crayon Physics Deluxe allows you to exercise your own. The constructs you envision can be as elegantly simple, or as elaborately convoluted as your mind allows. Whether you opt for a straight line or an over-engineered Rube Goldberg machine is entirely your choice – You’re limited only by your imagination…and quite possibly steadiness of hand.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is a short game – a full play through will take just a few hours. That said, an included level editor as well as the innumerable ways to solve each puzzle guarantee an incredible amount of replayablity. I regularly found myself repeating levels to experiment, and try different approaches. Equally as impressive is the almost immeasurable reward. I challenge you not to throw your hands in the air and squeal with glee when a particularly grandiose contraption you’ve engineered works.

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There are, as with any game, a few problems. It is possible to produce clipping issues, sometimes breaking the game physics. This generally only happens if your counterweights are too heavy, or objects too numerous. Encasing the entire play area with a crayon box can also lead to some bizarre glitches. These are minor niggles, and don’t detract from the game at all. A more serious problem is that once you’ve mastered the mechanics, you can use the same few tricks to complete most of the puzzles.

Unfortunately there’s nothing in the game to dissuade you from doing so, but if you do you’ll be robbing yourself of much of the fun.

Accompanying Crayon Physics Deluxe is a soothing three-track instrumental soundtrack which surprisingly never gets annoying. This, coupled with its kindergarten art style and simple yet innovative play mechanic exude such charm, and provide such a magical experience that it’s very difficult not to recommend.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is published by Kloonigames and is available for PC from the official site for a very reasonable $20 (Paypal account required). A demo, also available from the site, allows you to sample a few puzzles. A mobile version is available on the iTunes app store.

Scoring:

Gameplay: 9/10 – Magical mechanics, rooted in real-world physics.
Presentation: 8/10 – Suits the game perfectly. Like a nursery school fantasy vitalised.
Sound: 6/10 – Simple sounds. Very soothing music.
Value: 8/10 – Cheap! Lots of user generated content, and heaps of replayability.

Overall (Not an average): 8.0/10 – A gem of a game.

Last Updated: January 12, 2009

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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