Monday, 16 January 2012

Crayon Physics Deluxe

Developer: Petri Purho

Released: January 2009

Crayon Physics Deluxe is a 2D physics puzzler where your goal is to push a red ball into all the stars in each level, using crayons to draw paths or objects to help the ball arrive at its destination.

Critics loved the puzzles and the game's free-form approach to solutions, especially the encouragement to find elegant and creative solutions to puzzles that have a more obvious answer. Detractions included low difficulty and numerous technical issues. The review scores averaged out around 80%.

 I can't seem to find word of any updates or fixes to the game through Steam, but it seems like the scoring system was not in the original release and was added later.

The physics of the game are surprisingly complex for a 2D platformer, incorporating gravity, mass, inertia, and energy transfer. You can draw ropes and bridges as well as simple shapes, which the ball interacts with in different ways. Pins allow you to attach objects together to create simple machines. So there are a lot of options going on here.
After playing the game for only 10 minutes, it crashed. It also takes surprisingly long to launch -- thirty seconds to a minute. Holy crap. I didn't experience any other crashes, but I didn't play for long sessions or anything, so who knows if it's an isolated incident or a big problem. On the other hand, the game also has poor resolution selection -- I couldn't play in my native resolution of 1366x768, I had to use 1024x768. That's why you see black bars in my screenshots. I also hear that pressing New Game wipes all progress without so much as an "Are you sure you want to delete current progress?" so watch out for hitting that accidentally.

For each puzzle, you can earn three special achievements: Elegant Solution, for solving the puzzle with 1 drawn object (not including pins) and not nudging the ball; Old School Solution, for not using pins or drawing anything under the ball; and Awesome Solution, for (obviously) an awesome solution. There are two problems here: I'm not sure what "don't draw anything under the ball" means, but it certainly doesn't mean what I thought it did -- I can draw a shape intersecting the ball to start it moving, so Old School Solution seems kind of meaningless. Second, the way you earn Awesome Solution is by looking at the solutions you've come up with and simply choosing one to flag as Awesome. That's not awesome at all. In fact, it's pretty lame.
There isn't much variety to the music, which is pretty simple anyway. Acoustic guitar, bells, etc. It's not my style, but it is rather calming, which would be good if you were to get frustrated.

Crayon Physics didn't really capture my imagination in the way I hoped it would. That may be due to the fact that though the levels appear different, they can almost always be solved with some of the same tricks, which don't require much thought (ramp and swivelling hammer, for example). The crayons-and-paper appearance are cool initially, but since the vast majority of the screen is just filled by paper texture and crayons by necessity are not very complex, the game isn't much to look at.To be fair, I didn't play all the levels -- but when I'm not interested enough in a game to finish it, that's pretty much all I need to know that it's not for me.
You might enjoy Crayon Physics more than I did. There's a lot of content, the physics work pretty well and are surprisingly consistent with real-world principles, and there are a lot of levels (70+).

Actually, you know what? I was about to give this game a "maybe" recommendation (which means, as you may know, that it's not for everyone but if you're a fan of the genre you should go for it), and then I saw the price. Crayon Physics is $20 on Steam. What?! There's not enough complexity or content in this game to justify $20 in my mind. Most damningly, I've played Flash games that do the same things that this game does, only for free. Don't buy it unless the price goes way down, or you grab it in an Indie Bundle.

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