Providing Your Own Solution.
Last year, I talked about Crayon Physics, an interesting little puzzler where the User draws objects in a crayon style to help get a red ball to a yellow star. It came to iPhone recently, and while I don’t play a lot of games on my phone (it’s my phone, for the main reason, and I don’t want to run down my battery, not to mention I own a DS and PSP), I was intrigued enough to check this one out.
The most appealing of the game is the ease of use. Draw a line or make a shape, it becomes part of the playfield. At first, I was a little daunted. “What is the right shape”, I kept wondering to myself, before getting into it. And then I realized that there is no “wrong” shape. The “right” shape is what you want it to be.
When dealing with puzzles in games, if one really thinks about it, the player not only has to solve the problem, but solve the solution that the developer has laid out (shoot the creature in the eye, bomb this spot, jump on the creature five times, find the piece of paper to learn the keyboard notes to open the door, etc). Trial and error doesn’t always work. A player has to discover how the puzzle was defined, and find the specific tools or moves necessary to complete the stage. Crayon Physics doesn’t do that. It allows the User to define those parameters, and in turn, opens up a new level of freedom.
There are few games that actually encourage this type of free thinking. One that I can think of off the top of my head is Super Mario 64. Does the player want to start for the first star, or go for the fifth? Sure, Mario can climb the mountain the reach the goal, but a few wall jumps or launching oneself out of a cannon will accomplish the same result if up to the challenge. In many ways, that sense of multiple discovery was more rewarding than reaching the actual goal.
I got pulled in rather quickly to this idea in Crayon Physics, and was delighted that my imagination was the solution to solving the puzzles. I began drawing triangles placed at odd angles to fall over and push the ball to the goal. I began creating little paths for the ball to roll on in order to reach the goal. Some had ramps so that I could jump the ball to the star. There was no one “right” answer, and as I stated earlier, the goal became less important, than devising a clever way to reach my objective.
Hopefully, the game will do well enough to see release on the DS, which would be a perfect medium for it. For those non-iPhone users, the game is available for the PC, and is worth the download. I seem to have run across the first “highly recommended” game of the year, and definitely one that I will more than likely be regarding as one of the best for 2009.