Crayon Physics Deluxe Review
Crayon Physics Deluxe box art
System: PC, iPhone Review Rating Legend
Dev: Petri Purho 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Kloonigames 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jan. 7, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: N/A 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Your Drawings Come to Life
by Robert VerBruggen

It's hard to think of an independent game that's been hyped more than Crayon Physics Deluxe. In March of 2008, the popular web magazine Slate ran an article about the title's grand-prize-winning appearance at the Independent Games Festival. A YouTube teaser video made the rounds, accumulating about 2 million views. The game didn't even come out until last week.

Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot

It's not hard to see why people would get excited. The puzzle game has a great visual style and a great premise: On a crinkled piece of paper, there is a crayon-drawn 2-D world that includes a ball and a star. Your job is to guide the ball to the star. You do so by using your own (digital) crayon to draw objects, which interact with the environment to push, support, and otherwise manipulate the ball.

There's a terrific backstory, too. The game is the product of Petri Purho, a game developer who, once a month, takes a week to design a game and give it away free. The original Crayon Physics (which you can still download free here) was one of those titles, when it drew lots of positive remarks, Purho decided to take some time off and flesh it out. Can the results live up to the hype, the underdog legend, and the $19.95 price tag?

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Crayon Physics was an enjoyable experience to begin with, and there are plenty of new puzzles and features here. There are 80 stars spread amongst more than 70 levels (Crayon physics has seven levels, and the $4.99 iPhone version of Deluxe has 54). Whereas Crayon Physics turns most of the objects you draw into rectangles, in Deluxe you can draw objects of whatever shape you'd like. You can draw pins and string rope between them to create pulleys, and connect objects to the rope to drag your ball around. Alternatively, you can connect objects directly to the pins, and they'll swing and hit your ball like a golf club. Some levels have rockets you set off by dropping objects on them. There's a level editor and a developer-supported online community for sharing your creations. Three very soothing and unobtrusive music tracks accompany your doodling.

Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot

In other words, Crayon Physics Deluxe seeks to do everything it should have. Unfortunately, the execution is a little off; the game offers plenty of hope for the future via user-created puzzles and official updates, but the existing game leaves much to be desired.

For one thing, collecting the 80 stars takes only a few hours. The first 50 or so are incredibly easy, demanding little from the player beyond a brief glance, some mild mental activity, and a couple seconds of mouse work. If you're a very creative person, you can entertain yourself coming up with the most complicated, Rube Goldberg-style solutions as possible. (Purho insists this is the whole point of the game. We'll leave it up to you whether that's a valid point or an excuse.) Otherwise, you'll just be waiting around for the tough puzzles. Braid or Portal this is not, difficulty-wise.

Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot

The later puzzles are significantly harder, but as with the earlier puzzles, there are usually multiple ways to solve them. Again, the creative types will have a blast, but people who prefer to see a problem, think of the most pragmatic solution, and implement it will tend to fall back on the same techniques over and over again.

In particular (skip this paragraph if you don't want a strategy tip), we often found ourselves putting two pins under the ball and using them as an anchor for a ramp to the star. So long as any object includes two pins rooted in the game's environment, it won't move. Once you have the ramp in place, you can put the ball inside another object, place a pin in said object, and use pulleys to drag it up the ramp. This alone will solve a frighteningly large percentage of the later puzzles.

Screenshots / Images
Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot - click to enlarge Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot - click to enlarge Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot - click to enlarge Crayon Physics Deluxe screenshot - click to enlarge

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