Crayon Physics Deluxe isn't just one of the most inventive and clever puzzle games in recent years; it's also a fantastic trip on the way back machine to when you were a tot, armed with a fistful of crayons and a desire to just draw. This is a standout puzzle game that anyone can instantly comprehend, and it carries with it a cool factor that will cause your friends to stop and gawk in amazement.
The premise of this tiny, independent game is that you use your mouse to draw with crayons on paper, just like you did when you were little. But when you were little, you had to use your imagination to see your drawings animate and come to life. In Crayon Physics Deluxe, whatever you draw is imbued with physical life, gaining mass and falling to the bottom of the screen, as if gravity were tugging on it. It's like magic, and in an industry dominated by explosions and eye candy, it's incredible how something so simple can captivate you.
Golfing - Watch or download the video here (HD available).
On each of the game's 70 levels, you must guide a red ball to touch a yellow star. Aside from being able to give the ball a slight nudge to the left or the right, you can't manipulate it directly. What you must do is draw solutions on the paper so that the ball can reach the star; you might need to draw a rope bridge, create a pulley system, draw a series of ramps, or more to set up interlocking constructions. While many puzzles have easy solutions to them, you can have fun and let your imagination soar; there were times I eschewed the easy solution just to try and see if my silly-yet-fun alternative solution could actually work.
The game is incredibly easy and yet challenging at the same time. You can use the left mouse button to draw, the right mouse button to instantly erase something, and there's no punishment for failure. If the ball falls off the screen, it just resets back at its spawn point and you can keep on trying. You don't even need to be a good drawer; I'm absolutely horrendous at drawing (and on a personal note, I was amazed at how my drawing hasn't improved a single whit in more than 30 years), yet I managed to get through the entire game.
In fact, you could argue that the "crude" presentation is absolutely on target, as the game looks like the creation of a bunch of genius six-year olds, and it captures the crayon-on-butcher-paper look perfectly. Meanwhile, the tiny little details, like the way crayon lines "shiver," makes it come to life, like you were watching an animated special on television. The audio portion of the game consists mainly of mellow background tunes; it's pleasant and (more importantly) avoids becoming an annoyance, and it's also completely optional. You could set the sound off and it wouldn't affect the gameplay one iota.
Bridge - Watch or download the video here (HD available).
Crayon Physics Deluxe is completely playable using a mouse, but this is one of the few games that are really optimized for Tablet PCs or those with graphics tablets; basically, anything that lets you draw using a crayon-like stylus. Your drawings may be cleaner and prettier using a stylus, but again that's more of a function of your overall drawing ability.
The single-player itself consists of about 70 levels, spread out on a number of islands. You travel from island to island on a boat, and to unlock more islands you need to accumulate enough stars. The difficult curve is a bit weird, as the first third of the game is very easy, which makes you regard Crayon Physics Deluxe as a nifty tech demo. Then you'll get to a point where the levels suddenly get a lot more challenging, and you'll really have to work for it, depending on your puzzle-solving ability.
It's interesting how different people can see different solutions; I spent almost an hour on one level trying to solve the puzzle at which point a coworker walked by, suggested a simple solution that had been staring me in the face, and that was that. Other puzzles reminded me of calculus, when the teacher writes a short equation on the board and you realize that you're going to be spending pages and pages writing out the proof. I created some really convoluted solutions for some, but that was part of the fun. There are also optional challenges in each level to come up with solutions that feature minimal drawing; these can be very difficult, and they will definitely require you to think creatively.
When you're done with the single-player portion, there is a level editor that lets you create your own levels and then upload them to the game's web site. There, you can peruse other player creations and download them to your computer. You then just load them into the game from the main menu. What's neat is that levels are saved as .png files, which are incredibly tiny and let you preview the level instantly.
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