As with all puzzle games though, Crayon Physics Deluxe has to walk a fine line between being too easy and too difficult. If the game goes too far one way then you’ll quickly get bored and wander off. Too far the other and you’ll end up remoulding your keyboard with your face.
Guiding players through the difficulty curve is one of the hardest things for a game to accomplish and it doesn’t matter how cute, cheerful or simple the gameplay itself is; bore or flummox gamers too much and the whole experience tumbles down like a catapult made out of…well, crayola and creativity.
Crayon Physics Deluxe however has a difficulty curve which skitters all over the place like a cockroach in a frying pan.
The game starts predictably easy and, as we’ve said, the first three or four islands are about introducing you to the basics. These basics are hugely verbose though, and we were about 50 levels in before we really had to engage out brains. That’s more than half the game in less than two hours without feeling like we’d yet accomplished anything thanks to the ever present-training wheels.
By the time you reach the seventh island though, the difficulty jumps higher than a baby on a cattleprod. The solutions start to become seriously obscure and the amount of forward planning required to build your rope trebuchets is almost monstrous.
Just the clarify; this isn’t just me being stupid either. I had the others come and lend their brain-power on more than a handful of occasions, just to check if I was missing something. They were hopeless too.
The sudden jump in challenge wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the game is missing out on a few helpful fundamentals, such as an undo button. We can’t stress enough how badly an undo button is needed in Crayon Physics Deluxe – even if it only let you undo one move.
For the first stages of the game it isn’t an issue – there’s a restart button if you get stuck and the ball resets if it goes off screen (which can be useful for some puzzles). By the sixth and seventh island though your constructions are getting complex and crowded, so if you right click in the wrong place or the structure shifts at the last second then you’ll end up ruining everything. At that point all you can do is scream at someone and start over.
There are a few redeeming qualities for the game though, such as the incredibly simple to use level creator which lets you…well, draw new levels. You can scribble whatever you like in the level creator, fixing it to the background easily and animating it with a mixture of force arrows and player-activated rockets. You can then share you levels with others online if you’ve signed up when you installed the game. We’d recommend doing that by the way as that also lets the game automagically update.
Speaking of updates, we’ve also got to praise the stability of the game as a whole. With physics dependant games such as this it’s usually easy for the player to break the game somehow by forcing unnatural collisions. You might not always crash the game, but it’s normally easy to make physics objects go crazier than Dofus McLooniepants. Crayon Physics Deluxe however was remarkably well behaved in the time we had with it though, not crashing once and only creating physics bugs on one or two rare occasions.
Unfortunately though the inconsistent difficulty and the lack of real replayability for those who want to do most of their gaming offline really hurt our final impressions of Crayon Physics Deluxe. The first three quarters of the game are fun while they last, but they don’t last very long and the last quarter is more egregious than enjoyable on the whole.
For $20, Crayon Physics Deluxe is still a tempting offer for anyone with a spare bit of cash, but so are a lot of games. Crayon Physics Deluxe doesn’t need to go all the way back to the drawing board, but all it really needs is a bit more refinement to really compete with many of the other fantastic indie games vying for our attention.