Daily Independent: Crayon Physics Deluxe
The Daily Independent is a recurring feature in which we shine a light into the darkened wilderness of indie gaming, illuminating both the good and the bad of what we find there.
The invention of affordable physics modelling in video games revolutionized the puzzle genre. Sure, we all loved The Incredible Machine back in the day, but once games like Portal started to come out, things were irrevocably changed. Having realistic gravity, momentum and intertia in play makes getting an object from Point A to Point B that much more fun (especially if said object is a shapely woman in an orange jumpsuit).
Crayon Physics Deluxe, as its title suggests, takes advantage of this physics-based innovation, with a pair of neat twists. Firstly, the game‘s graphics, modeled after a child’s crayon drawings, provide a hilarious contrast to the newfangled technology employed behind the scenes. Secondly, gameplay is limited only by your imagination. With your mouse turned into a virtual crayon, you can draw in any object you need to complete the puzzle — it’s sort of like Super Scribblenauts for the visual arts crowd.
Every puzzle has the same basic format: get the red ball across the level so that it touches the yellow star. At first, this task is straightforward — you’re drawing lines across chasms to prevent the ball from falling in, or drawing blocks in the air which fall and knock the ball where you need it to go. The bigger the enclosed shape you draw in Crayon Physics Deluxe, the more it weighs.
As you might expect, things get complicated quickly. “Pins” are introduced, which can act as axles, hinges, or as anchor points for lines drawn to connect two pins, which turn into ropes. Pins functioning as axles are particularly important — a lot of the advanced beginner puzzles involve “golfing” the red ball around by drawing a weighty, club-shaped object attached to the pin, then having it swing toward the ball.
Gameplay is divided into various islands, each of which have a certain number of puzzles on them. You earn one star for completing each puzzle, but you can go back and try all of them again, attempting to refine your approach and effect more elegant solutions, which are good for extra stars. The design of the gameworld and the puzzles themselves is endearingly nostalgic — all creased construction paper and waxy crayon lines. You’re even encouraged to draw on the UI, just for the hell of it. If only designer Petri Purho had picked something other than the cloying, blissful ambient music that plays throughout.
Crayon Physics Deluxe is available via the Humble Indie Bundle, now in its third installment, which allows you to pay what you want for five award-winning indie games. Can’t really beat that deal. We reviewed one of them in a previous Daily Independent, and you can be sure that the others are just as good. Stay tuned — they might even appear in the next edition of this column.