Crayon Physics Deluxe, an ingenious video game that looks like it was designed by a third-grader.
Crayon Physics Deluxe, an ingenious video game that looks like it was designed by a third-grader.
The art of play.
March 19 2008 7:00 AM

Crayon Physics Deluxe

An ingenious video game that looks like it was designed by a third-grader.

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The original version of Crayon Physics was the Finnish student's 10th rapid-prototype project. It was inspired by the descriptions he'd heard of the classic children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon. Purho coded it in five days and posted it on his site in June 2007. The game won instant acclaim, inspiring him to release a level editor a few weeks later so others could create their own layouts and obstacles. The game proved such a success that Purho chose to violate his one-week rule to create Crayon Physics Deluxe. The months of extra time that went into this fleshed-out version make for a more polished experience, with better re-creations of the player's scrawlings. In the original version, your drawings were automatically squared off; the new version maintains the cruddy imperfections of your line art.Purho plans to charge $20 for the deluxe version once he finishes.

Despite his obvious talent, Purho isn't sure he wants to go into the industry after he gets his computer-science degree. "It's more about writing documents than it is about designing games," he says. "And I really hate writing documents."

Purho will probably have a better chance of moving the industry forward if he keeps flying solo. As the titles on display at this year's Independent Games Festival proved, some of the most innovative products in the gaming world are coming from one-man outfits. Take Audiosurf, made by another game-a-week geek, Dylan Fitterer (with help from his wife, Elizabeth). The game is based on a simple, ingenious concept: transform your favorite music into a game. Audiosurf takes any music file from your computer and turns it into a level. While listening to the track, you steer a little rocket car back and forth to collect the beats as they whiz past and avoid others. It's the perfect way to kill five minutes, and it's currently one of the best-selling titles on the Steam downloadable-games service, where it competes with photorealistic shooters in the same vein as Gears of War II.

While Audiosurfhad its partisans, the Seamus McNally Grand Prize—the indie-game equivalent of the Academy Award for best picture—went to Crayon Physics Deluxe. (Disclosure: I was one of more than 40 judges who voted on the entries.) The crowd whooped and roared as Purho took the stage. His acceptance speech was as clever and succinct as his game. He held up a piece of paper with a crayon scribble. It had two simple words: "F--k Yeah."

Chris Baker is a writer and editor in San Francisco.

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