The great thing about Kloonigames‘ Crayon Physics Deluxe is that it’s very non-authoritarian in its design. What I mean by this is that it offers you the tools you need to solve a problem (move the red ball to the gold star,) and it nudges you in the right direction, but it never forces you to do exactly what the game designer wanted you to do. A lot of puzzle games (and especially some adventure games) tend to focus on a single, correct answer. They play-test themselves to their limit, setting up road-blocks to prevent any outside-the-box thinking. In some cases, the solution to whatever you’re presented with is figured out not by logic but by telepathy: by reading the designer’s mind to deduce what they wanted.
But there are too many variables to consider in a physics based playground in which the user can draw anything they need to reach their goal. Crayon Physics Deluxe is quite libertarian in this way. It gives you some hints early on to help you figure out how the system works, but after that it throws you into stages armed with your wits and a crayon. While there is certainly an ideal way to collect the little golden stars in each level, you never feel as though it’s the only way. Any solution is equally valid. This is especially so since the game never grades your performance.
Though sometimes I wonder, when I create the most asinine kluge, what the designer had in mind when he created this level. How much have I deviated from its elegant solution? Did he consider this stupid method? I almost feel bad when I manipulate the game’s physics, creating all sorts of awkward contraptions, just so I can reach those little golden stars in the least brain-bending manner.
Then I realize that what I do with the game is more of a measure of my creativity rather than the designer’s. In embracing this, Crayon Physics Deluxe is less a series of objectives (a game), and more like a set of unique, if somewhat guided, playgrounds (a toy.) With this in mind, I stopped trying to quickly get through the game and started to take my time to create the most elaborate and pointless solutions to the simplest of obstacles. It’s more amusing this way. Otherwise, Crayon Physics Deluxe would be too boring.