SimplePhysics on iPhone — It’s Not So Simple

A relatively new game by the name of SimplePhysics found its way into the top paid iPhone apps list recently. Developed by Andrew Garrison, the $0.99 application made it all the way up to #8 and even broke into the top 50 grossing iPhone apps as well. The sequel to the title BridgeBasher, the name is a bit deceptive. It’s not as simple as one might think.

The game is probably best described as a physics-based-construction-puzzle game, where players use a simple interface to solve not-so-simple, real world problems. Even though it has very few puzzles, the game is actually still quite deep in its approach to physics.

SimplePhysics is an iPhone game that only consists of four puzzles and a tutorial. Though that might not seem like a lot, there is a significant challenge to be had with each one. With the ability to access any of the puzzles at any time, players have to solve a special problem for each one like building a tree house, a rooftop, a ferris wheel, and a skyscraper. The goals are to make the structures support four 50 pound children, 50,000 pounds of snow, complete two rotations, and withstand 300 MPH winds respectively.

Not very simple problems, are they? Thankfully, the interface is simple. Players have a blueprint with gridlines and they use their finger to draw support beams that connect to other beams at grid corners, or to specific spots on the puzzle itself (e.g. for the tree house, players can connect supports to specific parts of the tree). These “load-bearing” locations, which are not in every puzzle, are represented by a square.

Here’s the catch. Each puzzle has a budget that users must remain under, and every beam drawn costs a set amount of money. Actual understanding of physics does come in handy here. Of course, if one doesn’t have this understanding, the game takes pity and offers players the ability to perform stress tests with their finger. They can pull on parts of the design to display stress points in red and show how many Newtons of force are being applied.

Once users have perfected their designs, they can perform a final “certification” test to see whether or not the design meets the objectives. To succeed, the structure must withstand the test for 10 seconds.

Players are also pitted against one another through leaderboards to see who can build successful designs for the least amount of money, and can even email blueprints to one another.

Unfortunately, this is where the physics gets a little fishy. In the rooftop level, players are given a symmetrically shaped roof. The task is to see if it can support five feet of snow (50,000 pounds). When the final test is administered, the snow looks like its blanketed over the roof evenly. Nevertheless even with symmetrically designed infrastructures, the stress on the structure from the weight is always greater on the left side. This suggests one of two things: Either the physics are off, or the player is has incorrect visual feedback. It would also be nice to have more than four puzzles, but they will almost certainly be on the way in time.

Likely, these are a few oversights that can easily be fixed. Still, it is very thought-provoking and fun to play around with. More often than not, physics games involve knocking something down or blowing something up. It is nice to try and build something for a change.

Publish date: April 5, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT