Back in 2007 Matt Blum reviewed Crayon Physics for the PC, an innovative game where you draw on-screen with a virtual crayon to solve puzzles. The Deluxe version of that is nearly ready to ship for PC, but the iPhone version is already out. I had a chance to sit down and give it a run-through.
Crayon Physics Deluxe for the iPhone is a $4.99 game featuring 54 levels. For each level you have to draw shapes on the screen to move the circle over to a star using the gravity and momentum that your circles, squares, and other shapes generate. Along the way you have to get around obstacles, and as the game progresses you get more complex tasks, such as using cables and levers. It’s a casual puzzle game in the spirit of Enigmo on the iPhone, or, for you old timers, you might remember The Incredible Machine series from years ago. (As an aside, The Incredible Machine on iPhone could be awesome!) The game features a level editor (more on that later) and relaxing background music. Each level usually takes only a few minutes at most, especially at the lower levels, so it’s a great pick-up-and-play game for times when you have a few minutes to spare.
The touch controls on the game are intuitive, you just draw the shape you want, such as a square, circle, line, or triangle. On later levels you might need to pivot your shape, and for that you draw a tiny circle, then draw your shape around the circle. There’s a pretty big bug in the 1.0.0 version I tested where the game appears to run out of memory and gives you a "Can’t draw" error no matter what you try to draw. If you hit this you’ll need to restart your iPhone/iPod touch. The Application Description on the App Store page says that the developer is aware of the issue and will release a new version soon. In addition, the level load times and game play can be a bit laggy on my iPhone 3G, and there are reviews on the App Store that say the problem is even worse on first-gen iPhones and iPod touches. This isn’t a unique problem for new iPhone games, and hopefully it will be addressed quickly.
The initial levels are easy, and most experienced gamers will get through the first ten or so levels very quickly. After that the going gets tougher, and by mid-game the levels can be quite a challenge, in a good way. I haven’t made it past level 25, but if the difficulty curve keeps progressing the game will be hard enough by the end to challenge even the best puzzle masters. There is also a level editor included with the game, but unfortunately it is either broken in this version or desperately in need of documentation. Every level I tried to make would simply drop all the pieces I placed when I hit start. There are "pins" that theoretically can be used to pin down the pieces, but I couldn’t get it to work and there is no help for this on the developer site or in the game. It also appears that you can only make simple levels, and you can’t make spinning wheels or any of the advanced features that show up in later levels of the game. You also don’t appear to be able to share your levels or load levels from other players. Overall the level editor feature is promising, but not usable in this version.
At $4.99, Crayon Physics Deluxe should be a better game. If Kloonigames/Hudson can address the memory issues, frame rate lag, fix the level editor, and add the ability to load levels from other players then it will be well-worth the price. For now, though, I have to recommend holding off until some of these issues are addressed. Or you might want to pick up the PC version for $20.
Strangely, there is almost an exact clone of Crayon Physics Deluxe for the iPhone called Touch Physics. It is a far less-polished game with only 30 fairly-easy levels, no level editor, and much simpler play, but I found no bugs in it and it is currently only 99 cents (normally $1.99) "for a limited time". Anyone know the story behind these two almost-identical games? Let us know in the comments.