Crayon Physics has it's roots in the experimental gameplay project. This is a project whereby people create simple games, from concept to creation, in a defined time period (a week or so). The idea is that the games will be basic and straight forward - and that the focus will be on fun. One of the biggest successes from this Project World of Goo - and now Crayon Physics hopes to follow it's lead.
Crayon Physics started off as a small demo and, as dictated by the Experimental Gameplay mantra, the concept was simple. Essentially it boiled down to "get the ball to the star by any means".
Crayon Physics, as the name implies, uses a physics engine and a drawing algorithm to turn user drawn shapes into physical objects that can interact with the game world. Things start simple, drawing boxes and ramps for the ball to travel along, but you soon find yourself adding pivots and making more and more complex machines to move your ball to it's star.
It's pretty clear from the name where it gets it's graphical style from. Visually the game is entirely made up of crayon style doodles - which fits very nicely with the sketchy shapes you end up drawing to complete the levels.
I am sure many people buying the game will have played the original demo... So what's changed?
Apart from the obvious things - such as many more levels - the biggest changes are the world map, the new interactive objects, and the level editor.
The world map adds a sense of progression to the game - you have to finish a certain amount of puzzles to move to the next area (island) and each area adds a new skill to learn. There are also some new objects to interact with (rockets triggered by objects dropped on them being the first). To be honest I don't remember if that was in the original game or not but it's definitely in this one. The inclusion of the level editor almost opens up the game to a Fantastic machines type of affair - and I expect to see some new videos on youtube showing off some of the crazy things made with the engine.
Actually the level editor probably deserves a mention. I'm not normally a fan of level editors - not because I don't like creating levels, but because the editors are generally made by programmers and are therefore more complex than they should be. Petri seems to have gotten the Crayon Physics editor just right as it has all the in game features, but is also very simple to use. One nice additional feature is the ability to upload your levels to the crayon physics website. Apparently once the site is launched you will be able to download the levels and play them in the game - this feature isn't working in my review copy though so I can't test it for myself.
The game has no concept of losing or lives - which in a game like this is essential. If your ball falls off the screen then it will simply be replaced at it's start point - which encourages experimentation and makes the whole thing a lot more relaxed than it would have been.
One of my criticisms of the original version of Crayon Physics is that there were a few levels that were very tough (until you knew the solution) which meant progress could be halted for some time. Now that there's a world map this is largely resolved as you can simply chose an alternate path through the world.
All in all Crayon Physics is a lovingly put together example of what indie gaming is all about and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone.