Unlike cartoon heroine Penny Crayon’s artwork, the objects you draw in Crayon Physics Deluxe don’t spring magically to life. Instead they become solid, dead weights – perhaps as part of a clever pulley system or a cunningly positioned lever. Penny wouldn’t be best pleased with this situation. In fact, she’d be downright upset if a dinosaur she drew flopped dead at her feet due to a lack of a carefully drawn central nervous system. But that’s just how things are in Crayon Physics Deluxe.
The aim is to move a red ball to a star. You have no direct control over the world (beyond nudging the ball left or right); instead your power lies in your ability to drop objects of any shape into the level, bolting them together with hinges or tying them to one another with ropes. Rudimentary as that sounds, it allows for a range of proper mechanical structures: buckets and pulleys, springboards, hammers and ramps, even cars. And unlike similar physics puzzlers where your resources may be limited, the scope for creativity here is near-boundless. Your solutions can be as imaginative or complex as you like, whether that means creating screen-filling Rube Goldberg contraptions or simply drawing a flower at the end of a stick.
This lends an air of open-endedness to the 70 levels, a feeling that ultimately works against the game’s premise. Once you’ve mastered some of the simpler mechanics – say, setting up a swinging weight to kick the ball towards the star, or drawing a box around the ball and tying it to a falling weight to drag it across the level – you’ll find yourself over-reliant on them. Most of the levels can be solved with a handful of basic tricks, and while the opening dialogue suggests that Crayon Physics Deluxe is more about thinking up inventive solutions than efficient ones, you’re rarely inspired to challenge yourself when an obvious route to the star is staring you in the face.
Happily, later levels force you to innovate, providing a much appreciated difficulty spike, and the built-in level editor suggests there’ll be a constant stream of new levels made available in later months. As long as you realize that Crayon Physics Deluxe is a sandbox in disguise, you won’t be disappointed by this charming physics puzzler.
Feb 5, 2009