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Crayon Physics Deluxe

Wax works.

But the key word here is "could". CPD presents something of a problem. It can be a fantastically fun and challenging game, but often only if you choose to ignore the obvious route to the finish. One level on the penultimate island clearly wants you to create a weight and pulley system around a floating cloud, but it's impossible not to notice you can literally draw one straight line and complete the level. Years of gaming conditioning tell you to do just that, and expecting players to take the scenic route to a star is a problem in the level design. Success is ludicrously rewarding if you steel yourself to do something a particular way, but you'll know you could always have used the old box, rope and weight trick in a fraction of the time.

The final island's collection of 19 levels, however, sees the difficulty ramp up at last. Here are some properly challenging tasks that will have you stumped for a bit, and far more likely to experiment. Someone might point out a far simpler solution, of course, but you'll be much more satisfied with your inelegant and convoluted route. It's hard not to wish this wasn't the difficulty level throughout.

Quite a few levels raise a laugh at first sight. A number contain extremely frightening stickmen, who wobble in a peculiarly unnerving fashion, obeying the physics that rule the rest of the game. It can be a lot of fun disposing of these figures, tying weights to them and seeing them fall off the edge of the world. Or you could use them to solve the level in more imaginative ways. In one level your ball begins in a man's belly, requiring the opening of his flip-top head to progress. If only this sort of theme had been more fully explored, rather than a series of 'ball one side of obstacles, star the other' levels, CPD could have reached greatness.

It's very important that all independent games contain at least one dinosaur.

And it still might. It comes with a level editor, which lets you create levels in a manner in keeping with the rest of the game. You draw them using the crayons, with a collection of tools letting you pin permanent objects in place, add in rope and rockets (which are fired by dropping objects on them, and used for a few puzzles in the main game), and use the more advanced tricks like applying force to objects in your level. You can jump in and out of it as a playable level for tweaking, and then a simple in-game option lets you name it, describe it, and upload it to the game's site.

These appear in the "Playground" section, which at the time of writing only shows the most recent uploads (hopefully by the time the game is out on 7th January this will be archiving levels correctly). Then they can be downloaded as a PNG and played through the level editor. It would be much nicer if downloaded levels could be grouped together and played without having to go through the editor, so we hope to see that in a future update, but in the meantime there's an endless amount of challenges to approach once the main game is over, and hopefully as time goes on the best and most difficult will also be bundled.

That's just potential, but Crayon Physics Deluxe is still well worth the USD 20 for the adorable fun it offers right now. Having your drawings come to life is just wonderful, and when you choose to do something inventive and imaginative, you'll have a fantastic time. If only the level design forced this kind of innovation on the player, it would have been even better.

7 / 10

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