Before settling down to create the full length Crayon Physics Deluxe, Petri Purho, of the one-man game studio Kloonigames, wrote one minigame a month. You can really see that creativity and adaptability in the finished Crayon Physics. Each level of CPD is a new crayoned picture, and players interact by drawing ramps, levers, spinners, stairs and other contraptions to complete the brilliantly simple objective of bringing the red ball over to the star. In the first couple of levels, the red ball reaches the star by means of stairs or a slide, while later levels involve levers, weights and all kinds of moving parts, for an irresistible mix of coloring outside the lines and Rube Goldberg contraptions.
Remember those old Sierra games, where you’d go to cross the road and get hit by a car? Get into an elevator and plunge to your death? Pet a cat and contract a particularly virulent strain of rabies? Well, you see where I’m going with this. Games that screw players for creative problem-solving or exploration just aren’t fun.
Crayon Physics Deluxe is an excellent sandbox game in that it’s never punishing for players to experiment. If your experiment fails, a new red ball appears. You’re not timed, you’re not losing points for screwing up, the only real effect of failure is that you haven’t met your goal and so you need to try again. With unlimited attempts, feel free to try any crazy ideas that come to mind. Write your name in crayon and see what happens! Build a swing or a seesaw!
The endless supply of new chances has a Civ-like “one more turn!” effect, and coupled with the rewards of seeing what’ll happen, can make this an addictive game. And, although you’ll be trying again and again, CPD thankfully stays clear of all those annoying attempts at encouragement. No saccharine requests to please try again here.
The sandbox-y aspect, and the lack of punishment make Crayon Physics a great game to introduce to a non-gamer in your life. Because the controls are so intuitive, you won’t be spending a long time explaining the many uses of the A button. Everything in CPD is done with the mouse, so if you can master Paint, you can start crayoning creations. A simple, intuitive set of controls goes a long way towards making a game playable, you don’t want to mash buttons while you sort out what A and B do in each situation. CPD eliminates that learning curve without eliminating the new-game challenge.
Crayon Physics keeps the cute crayon style throughout the game. After completing the basic levels, players hop in a messy crayoned boat and sail to new green-outlined islands, full of new levels. Even the game menus look like something your little niece or nephew would want you to hang on the fridge.
By being so brilliantly simple, Crayon Physics Deluxe highlights everything that’s overblown in typical mainstream games. It’s an addictive game, without any half-naked women, any explosions or any blood, it’s great to see a game that goes in a totally different direction.
Originally written February ’09, for AngryGamers.com