Monday, May 25, 2009

demo monday: crayon physics deluxe

way to draw, guyOkay so let’s make this one short. I have been at my parents’ for the weekend,  watching my little brother graduate from high school (!), so I’ve been flitting about and making lame attempts at small talk and spending Valuable Time with family members. It is a pleasant change of pace, but it has also means that I am away from most of my major gaming platforms and that I am hitched to their DSL, which I swear feels more like dial-up with each passing month. Obstacles: Find something that’s quick, will run on my laptop, and is small enough to download in less than three days. Oh noes.

I know that Petri Purho’s Crayon Physics and Crayon Physics Deluxe are sort of old news around these parts. I looked at Wikipedia. I saw the date. But I have those aforementioned limitations to work within, and the game just went up on Steam, so pretend that this game is as new to you as it is to me and let’s move on.

A recipe for Crayon Physics Deluxe: One part physics puzzle, one part Mario Paint, two tablespoons soothing music, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract (this shit is in everything). Add cuteness to taste. Serves bunches. The first level drops a ball on a flat plane, across from a star. Words write themselves in the air: “draw a box.” You draw a box. The box pushes your ball toward the star, which it picks up when it touches. I present to you your game. Get a star in one level, and you can move onto the next. Get enough stars, and you can start visiting other worlds, here represented by islands. Each island has a certain star requirement, so you’ll need to rack up quite a few of them to explore the entire world.

Things ramp up gradually as the demo moves on, though if there’s a difficult part of this game, it doesn’t show up on the first two islands. Instead, the demo primarily focuses on showing you how the physics of the world work – drop a box into the other end of a catapult to send your ball flying, draw a shape around a small, round peg to make it swing around and around, sometimes knocking your ball toward a star (but often knocking it right down a hole). Like so many of these simple indie-developed games, it’s as soothing as it is easy to pick up.

Unlike last week’s Star Trek D-A-C, the presentation on this one is top-notch for an indie game – working on a canvas of crinkled, folded paper, all of Crayon Physics Deluxe’s visuals do actually look as if they were drawn in crayon, and you can leave your mark where ever you please – even the world map allows you to doodle on it. I drew a hungry (but sort of vacant-looking) shark next to the ferry that takes you from island to island, but those of you who enjoy overcompensating for your own latent homosexuality can also draw giant dicks all over the place if you want. It caters to all kinds, you see. The sound is also perfectly suited for the game, mostly pleasant filler with some occasionally beautiful high points. If you’re feeling stressed, take a deep breath and play this game.

One thing Crayon Physics Deluxe does that I really like – many game puzzles are really only solved one way. No matter how clever you think you’re being, the only way to overcome an obstacle is the way that the programmer programmed. Braid is like this, though it was exemplary in its ability to make you feel like a genius. Crayon Physics is another animal, though – Braid was all about an ever-changing but ultimately inflexible set of rules – each action has a reaction, and learning and exploiting the rules of each level was key to solving it. With Crayon, since you can draw shapes that look like absolutely anything, there actually are different ways to solve each puzzle, and while I saw no evidence of this in the demo, word on the street is that the game actually rewards you for thinking outside the box.

Buy or pass? First, a word on the pricing of independent games – most of them are short enough and simple enough (and cheap enough, from the developer’s standpoint) that they should not exceed $10, lest the barrier to entry become too high. Some are polished enough and deep enough that they merit the bump up to $15, which most people seem willing to forgive in the age of the $60 game. Crayon Physics Deluxe’s PC asking price of $20, though, strikes me as just a little grabby. Still, fact of the matter is that I desperately wanted more when the demo was over, and iPhone owners can get the game for a much more palatable $5 – if you can get over the price tag, this one’s a buy.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch for $4.99 from the iTunes store, and for the PC, which can be downloaded via Steam or from the game’s Web site. Downloaded PC demo and played single player mode to completion.