15: Crayon Physics Deluxe

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To start with, crayon is the key word in the title. You encounter a completely distinct looking UI that you are free to draw all over and rub out and make look like a pile of crap, and then you work your way across a series of badly drawn islands. The islands are obviously just a neat way to present a mission list but they’re a well-used one, allowing you to increase in difficulty organically without actually having to solve every problem. If you reach an impasse there is normally an alternate route through the island you can take. For each mission, the aim is always the same: get the ball to the star.

It oscillates in difficulty as you gradually add new ways of moving a ball around. To start with all I could think of was a slope, and maybe tipping a seesaw if it was pretty much already set up. It’s perfectly possible to brute force any problem that you might have by just gradually filling the screen with pebbles that slightly move the ball, so I tended to do this. Below is one of my early attempts to move a box with a ball in it.

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Scores of individual crayon slivers, each advancing me towards my goal by a fraction of an iota of an amount. The mind of a mathematician at work, apparently. It is fiddly to draw shapes for a physics puzzle as if you recall your A-level physics, we tend to assume we’re working with perfectly smooth particles acting in a vacuum, not bumpy shit pseudo-rectangles. With a steady hand this improves but the problem never really goes away: this is not an exact science. But I persevered and set myself a goal: to reach the island in the middle of the map which required you to collect 120 stars. Each island is themed in some way and there is an effort made to show you the various tools you could actually be using by way of demonstration, and little notes (in crayon, obviously) on the map. Finally, the physics part of the name was making an appearance. My repertoire expanded to include proper seesaws, pulleys, ropes and most of all, pins.

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I loved pins, they let you attach anything to anything else and they were the first step in making my solutions less flabby, along with the discovery you can just draw a box around the ball and move that around. The problem then becomes difficulty again: you can solve pretty much everything with a box, a pin and a rope with a heavy weight on the other end. Put down two pins and draw a box around it and you can create a fixed platform absolutely anywhere you like on the map, which negates the need to actually use the environment they had lovingly set out. You can poke and prod the ball a little yourself, too, which seems to work against the whole point of drawing a solution. This was more fun than it was before, but it was still easy. And then I ran into my next hurdle.

I had done all the problems and yet this middle island that was my goal was still about forty stars off. And the game was saying I only had half the stars for each island. Hmm…I did some investigation, finding out that you could gain two stars for a problem, but only if you solved it with a single drawn object. That…that sounded tough.

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The game, streamlined still further, finally became something worthwhile. I combed through the maps I had hastily pinned my way across, looking for ways to do it all at once. Sometimes this involved a weird slope like above, sometimes it involved a particularly shaped weight placed in a seesaw, sometimes a falling pivot that would realign itself when it hit the floor. There was creativity required, and a lot of trial and error. I solved problems that had previously taken forty objects, with one. Finally, combing through the last of the seven outer islands, I found my 120th star, a looped helter skelter of a piece. The middle island beckoned, and who was that coming to greet me?

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RUN

3 stars, 3 and a half hours played (all puzzles completed to at least one star)

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