Monday, September 16, 2013

Crayon Physics Deluxe (Petri Purho, 2009)

I've mentioned before how the touch screen interfaces on mobile devices offer both design challenges and opportunities as the game industry tries to move beyond physical buttons. While more traditionally popular genres feel awkward on these platforms, others feel incredibly intuitive, and have managed to flourish. One of the biggest genres in mobile gaming is the physics puzzler. Physics puzzle games such as Cut the Rope, Where's My Water, and the enormous mega-hit Angry Birds series generally give the player a limited number of physical objects to interact with in order to complete a simple task. In the case of Crayon Physics Deluxe, those limitations are thrown out the window as you get to freely create the world as you play.

The basic interface of Crayon Physics Deluxe is about as simple and intuitive as you can get. The screen looks like a piece of paper, and you draw on it using your touch screen or mouse as if you had a crayon. You either already know how to do this, or you're spending your Rumspringa reading video game blogs.

Each level of Crayon Physics Deluxe presents you with a small red ball, and the point of the game is to get the ball to reach a star. It's possible to nudge the ball one way or another, but for the most part it's all about what you draw. The objects you draw take on physical properties responding to forces such as gravity, collisions, and friction. In order to complete each level, you have to figure out what combination of objects will accomplish your task.

Crayon Physics Deluxe essentially becomes an engineering simulation in a way. You can create hinges, ropes, ramps, pulleys, wheels, and even rockets. These can all be combined to create your own makeshift machines as you try to manipulate the ball across the screen.

What I enjoyed most about Crayon Physics Deluxe is that there was never just one right answer. Do you need to get the ball up to a higher platform? Maybe you should draw a cage around it, tie a rope to the cage, and then draw a heavy weight on the other end of the rope that will fall off the opposite edge of the platform pulling the ball up. Maybe you'd rather draw a giant half pipe and Tony Hawk the ball up to the platform. Maybe you're more in the mood for a rocket powered golf club? Go crazy and see what works!

Sometimes it's fun to replay levels different ways to see what all the game will let you do. I managed to create some fairly elaborate machines in some of these levels. I didn't actually need to, but it was nice that the game let me.

It's not a grand adventure or anything, but as far as mobile puzzle games go, it's a fun distraction that will force you to think and be imaginative..

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