Crayon Physics Deluxe is a fairly unique game, but it doesn’t feel it. If anything it feels very familiar and easy to get into – like your favourite pair of mud-caked shoes. The very premise of being able to draw all over the screen and have your doodles turn into in-game objects is an interesting innovation, but at the same time it feels like it’s old news at best.
The reason for this familiarity is simple; the games concept is one nearly all of us have thought up at some point or other, usually while struggling with a game of Tetris or being frustrated by a point and click adventure. Wouldn’t it just be easier if I could just make what I need in the game?
As familiar as it all is though, Crayon Physics Deluxe still is very innovative and compelling – enough that it won developer Petri Purho the grand prize in last year’s Independent Games Festival, prize money and all.
It was only with the beta that Purho managed to bag the much-clamoured for cash though – and in beta the game has been since, only now emerging to give players a chance to play the full game.
The finished product is actually quite different from the beta though, laying the individual puzzles out over a large explorable game-world reminiscent of the early Mario Bros. games. There are just shy of eighty levels in the entire game that are spread out over about seven islands, each of which focuses on a different aspect of level design.
The missions themselves aren’t complex either, each one filling a single non-scrolling screen. The levels are typically littered with visual clues and hints at how you’re supposed to beat it, which is done by guiding a crayon ball to a pulsing star.
As the title suggests, physics play a rather large role in solving the crayola conundrums. If the star is above the ball then you’ll need to build a simple lift. If it’s off to the right then you’ll need a ramp or a swing to hit it with – simple physics tricks like that.
The first few islands in the game in fact actually do little more than introduce you to these ideas, slowly making sure you’re aware of how to place pivots and use pulleys, where to use hammers and how to build towers that don’t fall over.
The use of the crayola-style graphics is persistent throughout too, with coloured lines flickering a little and shimmering around as you lay them down on the yellowed paper backdrop. Petri has built some nice touches around this too, letting players doodle and write messages all over the world map, for example. Though it makes no actual difference to the gameplay you can switch through different colours with the mousewheel too.
The game itself is totally without story and context though and, to be honest, we’re quite glad that that’s the case. Arthouse games like Braid and super-cute squealers like World of Goo are great in small doses, but we’re honestly getting a bit sick of the irrepressible sense of smug joy those games ooze.
Like the writing on bottles of fruit juice in trendy coffee shops those games are just a little too sickly-sweet for regular indulgence, so finding an indie game that isn’t so pretentiously twee for once is a welcome breath of fresh air.