Crayon Physics Deluxe, PC - Review

Crayon Physics Deluxe, PC - £13.78

Review by LewieP

It's a testament to how simple and yet compelling the crayon physics core mechanic is that a bunch of clones have sprung up between the initial release of the Crayon Physics tech demo and the release of the proper game, Crayon Physics Deluxe. There have been homebrew clones on the Wii, DS, an iPhone clone, and several PC clones, and those are just the ones I've encountered. When I say clone, I don't even mean that in a derogatory sense, I'm pretty sure they would all happily cite Petri Purho's IGF winner as their inspiration.

It taps into an idea I know I've had since watching Penny Crayon as a kid, drawing something, which then comes to life.

But does it work as a game? For the most part, yes, very much so.

The game is structured in a fairly traditional manner. You start off on island no. 1, which has a X number of levels (puzzles is probably more appropriate), and you have to get Y number of stars from the puzzles to move onto the next island and there's always some margin of error between X and Y for those individual puzzles you can't solve.

Each puzzle has stars for you to collect, initially just one star per puzzle, but a few have two. You collect stars by creating stuff with a magical crayon, that takes on the physical form of it's appearance. Draw a box, it will bounce, slide, and have weight, momentum and friction appropriate to it's shape. Same for a circle, or ropes and pulleys. You then have to use that stuff to move a red ball around the puzzle towards a star.

If it sounds complicated, it's not, and there are nice on screen tutorials that offer just the right amount of guidance without feeling invasive whenever a new technique is required. At it's most basic, Crayon Physics Deluxe is a game of cause and effect, action and reaction.

The difficulty curve is pretty shallow at first. It is a very forgiving game. Even if you mess up completely on a puzzle, a quick press of the space bar resets it all. Since the puzzles are only short, you generally don't mind experimenting, since you won't really lose much progress if the experimentation is unsuccessful. I also like that once you have gotten the star(s), nothing else matters, your construction can all fall apart, the ball can fly off the screen, anything can happen, and long as the red ball touches the star, you have succeeded.

Now I would say that the biggest missed opportunity in Crayon Physics Deluxe is in the puzzle design. A lot of the puzzles are solvable in more than one way. In fact, pretty much all of them are.

There's the 'correct' way, which will often be elegant and simple once you know how, and it can be really rewarding working these solutions out.

The other way is to brute force it. Hash your way through it and you'll probably get the ball to the star without too much difficulty. Either using what I guess are limitations in the physics engine, or just dumb trial and error.

The problem is, you often don't know which of these you are doing until you've practically solved the puzzle. I wish there was more clues as to whether or not I was on the right track to finding the more elegant solution. Maybe if there was some kind of reward for having achieved the more intelligent solution, even just a little feedback to say "you have mastered this level, you can now move on" would be great, but as it is, the player is left guessing whether or not the have mastered a given puzzle, and for me, that really detracted from me wanting to perfect the levels.

Problems aside, the puzzles is more than enough to put a smile on your face. It can really make you feel clever.

It's technically impressive. It looks, feels and sounds like something a 5 year old digipen graduate might come up with, and that is entirely meant as a compliment. I've got plenty of time for games that look like no other games on the market (excluding direct clones of it of course).

The creative commons sources soundtrack is a highlight. It's downloadable free right here, and _ghost's Lullaby has been helping me get to sleep since I first heard it. My only complaint is that there is just over 11 minutes of music, and you will spend much longer playing the game, so each track will repeat lots of times, but if it bothers you (it didn't really bother me) you can always mute it and stick something else on in the background.

Then there is the level editor. To be honest, that's not really my thing, but it looks pretty robust, so I reckon if you are the type of gamer that likes creating levels, then this is a big plus for you.

What definitely is my thing is the downloadable levels other people will make for me. Already, from just the beta there are a bunch of great looking levels been made by users, so I bet in a few months there will be mountains of levels made by users. And here lies the rub, who knows what the communities quality control will be. Thousands of levels to download is useless if 99% of them are terrible and there is no way to tell the gold from the turd.

A minor technical downer, I seem to be unable to get it to run at 1280x1024, the highest resolution it will run at is 1024x768. It's only a slight annoyance really, barely worth mentioning. It is still beautiful.

In all honesty, I am pretty sure most gamers will get plenty of enjoyment out of Crayon Physics Deluxe, and if even if the more jaded amount you feel a little short changed, just head to his web site and try one of the plethora of games he has made publicly available for completely free.

Update: Check out my custom level.

Discuss it in the forums.

Crayon Physics Deluxe, PC - £13.78

Xbox 360 60gb Pro console - £137.01

Xbox 360 60gb Pro console - £137.01

Pre-order, not sure when they will have stock in. £107.65 for an Arcade too.

Unreal Tournament 3, PC - £8.73

Unreal Tournament 3, PC - £8.73 delivered

Dragon Quest - The Journey Of The Cursed King, PS2 - £8.73

Dragon Quest - The Journey Of The Cursed King, PS2 - £8.73 delivered

Castlevania - Judgement, Wii - £17.99

Castlevania - Judgement, Wii - £17.99 delivered

Pretty good price for a terrible looking game, imo.

We Love Golf!, Wii - £9.99

We Love Golf!, Wii - £9.99 delivered

FEAR, Xbox 360 - £9.95

FEAR, Xbox 360 - £9.95 delivered

Noitu Love 2: Devolution, PC - £7.07

Noitu Love 2: Devolution, PC - £7.07

The maker of this crazy indie action game, Konjak, has just dropped it to half price. Soundtrack is a free download here too. You can also chose to pay £8.41 to get it on a disc.

2 more Quake Live beta invites available.

Same drill as before, next two people to email me at will get two invites to the Quake Live beta.

I should also add, you need to include your full name, and whether you classify yourself as Beginner/intermediate/Expert skill level, or if you are not sure, that's cool too.

Update: And gone again. Same as last time though I'll be sure to post again when I have more.