Saturday, June 09, 2007

Two Physics-Puzzle Demos

Title: P.H.L.O.P.
Author: B. Kircher, C. Lyon, T. Nguyen
License: Freeware

Title: Crayon Physics
Author: Petri Purho
License: Freeware

This week, I am going to review two physics based puzzle games. Both are are concept/demo games. The first, PHLOP, is a DigiPen project. DigiPen is a school for games programmers located in the Seattle area. Every year, various student projects are released as freeware. Here are the 2006-2007 projects.

I have never been impressed with the DigiPen games. They are always oddly incomplete and buggy. There are some interesting ideas in these games, but they are never polished. I am often left wondering, "did they even play test this themselves?" Of course, I am sure that every history professor reading senior theses thinks something similar.

PHLOP is the first DigiPen game that impressed me. It was clearly inspired by Armadillo Run. At first, I almost dismissed it as a clone, but PHLOP contains some interesting new features. As in Armadillo Run, the goal is to use various struts and platforms to get the balls to the goal area. Two fun new features are gravity switches and magnets. When a ball hits a gravity switch, the direction of gravity changes, the screen rotates, and the ball starts falling in new direction. This is a great idea.

PHLOP has 40 levels, and any level can be accessed at any time. It has good graphics and audio. The physics model is decent, but not as good a Armadillo Run. As with other DigiPen games, there are missing elements. One is that it does not record which levels you have completed. The interface is quirky. Then there are little things like help screens that say "Todo: any help here". Given these omissions, I cannot fully endorse PHLOP. Still it is fun.

The other game is Crayon Physics. It is a "done-in-under-a-week game" so some leeway has to be given. The objective is to force the ball to each of the stars. To do this you draw boxes on the screen. Once completed, they fall. As they fall, the boxes push things about. On this this level, I used the blue box to push the ball next to the pillar. Next, using other boxes, the pillar can be tripped over the ball. Then pushing the ball to the star is easy.

The physics model is very good, and the crayon graphics are great. There are only seven levels which can be completed in any order. Crayon Physics is fun while it lasts. I wish there was a level editor.


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