Remember how your teachers always told you that doodling with your crayons all day long was a waste of time? In Crayon Physics Deluxe, not only will you be rewarded, it’s the only way to play.

The goal of Crayon Physics Deluxe is simple: propel the red ball into the star. But unlike most puzzle games, there truly are an infinite number of solutions for beating each of the game’s 70+ levels. As the game’s first screen states, “It’s not just about finding the right solution. It’s about finding the awesomest one.” The reason for this is that you can literally draw anything you like, and it comes alive in the game’s world.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is full of whimsy. The presentation is all very crude, like a child’s drawing. However, when combined with the ethereal soundtrack, you really feel like you’re inside someone’s imagination. Game levels have equally silly names (a personal favorite is “Needs More Unicorn”).

Armed with a crayon for a cursor, you start the game by drawing a box. One you release the mouse button, you stop having control over the object you drew and the game’s sophisticated physics take over. So if that box is a little wonky, it won’t sit flat. Curvy lines fall off the edges of cliffs, and the weight and size of what you drew will affect how things interact.

Now, with that box, imagine drawing a straight line over the top, making what looks like a see saw. If you draw a large object – say, a nice boulder – high above that line and let it fall, it will work like a catapult. The game didn’t make any of this happen. You did.

Drawing the objects is very easy with the cursor, but the real gift is if you’ve got a tablet PC. If so, then you can actually draw the object on your screen. You can help push the ball along using the two mouse buttons, erase objects by right-clicking them, or change the color of your cursor with the scroll wheel.  But drawing isn’t limited only to levels. If you feel like doodling on the maps, you’re welcome to.

Crayon Physics Deluxe‘s puzzles, though, are really ingenious. It’s all so simple, but can be as complex as the best Rube Goldberg machine from Saturday morning cartoons. Not only can you draw objects, but by drawing small circles attached to object, you can create pins that other objects hinge and swing from, or link two pins with a single line to make a flexible rope. Everything is revealed as you progress through the game, and you can go back to any other level and try out new ideas.

Progress is made by earning stars. Each level has at least one star (some have more) to collect. Extra stars can be earned by drawing a single object (the Elegant Solution), or multiple objects without the help of pins or clicking the ball to roll it (the Old School Solution). Complete these two tasks, then pick which solution was the most “awesome” (each solution is saved as a replay) and a bonus star is headed your way.

Later levels begin to incorporate simple machines like pulleys, or rockets that ignite when an object collides with it. Another level tasks you with flinging a crayon car out of the way before you can get to the star, or another still forces you to find a way through a large, gangly person who is waving. Crayon Physics Deluxe is filled with so many “wow” moments that picking just one is impossible (and very difficult to document without spoiling the magic). But because of the completely open-ended possibilities, no two people will ever play the game identically.

Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. A few glitches popped up, causing random object to spontaneously vanish; once, an entire level vanished, leaving an empty page onscreen. However, with a quick press of the space bar, the level is reset and no harm is done. It can be frustrating when you’re nearing a great, elaborate solution and it happens, but it is hardly game-breaking.

Crayon Physics Deluxe is a very special game. You may not have heard of it, but one level in the demo, and you’ll be “drawn in” in no time. Whatever you do, erase some time in your schedule for it.

For similar games, try World of Goo and Ice Breaker.