‘Please, Touch the Artwork’ review: a charming art puzzler
Let me begin this review with a confession – I’ve never really been a fan of art. I’ve been to a lot of museums and galleries, and I’ve seen some of the all-time great pieces of artwork, yet I’ve never resonated with art on any deep level. As a result, I may seem like an odd reviewer to be sitting down with a game like Please, Touch the Artwork, a puzzler set in an art gallery that encourages you to engage with the history of the medium as you solve the puzzles. Yet I broadly enjoyed the game, and I think it’s a fun and stylish Switch experience to kill a few hours.
The game was made by Thomas Waterzooi, as a means of exploring his emotional connection with art, and specifically the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. What this means in practice is essentially three games in one. Firstly, The Style, in which you fill various rectangles with different primary colours to recreate paintings. Then comes Boogie Woogie, which sees you sending cubes across another grid, and finally, New York City, which is basically a maze that you need to navigate to collect a bunch of squares. The puzzles are generally quite engaging and the difficulty ramps up well, although they do sometimes reach the point of just trial and error, so wind up being a little repetitive at points.
Appropriately for a game about art, the art style is very visually engaging. The game looks incredible, and the dialogue is funny and interesting – we get to know the artists, the developer, and some of the people in the gallery, and it’s really charming as the narrative unfolds. I actually read the information about the artworks (although you’re able just to skip it if you want), and it really contextualised the puzzles effectively. The game benefits from a handheld-focused approach, which makes you feel as if you are actually engaging with the artwork and its histories.
If you like it, you’re really going to like it
Set against a piano and drum-led jazzy soundtrack, the whole experience of Please, Touch the Artwork just feels relaxing – Waterzooi really generates the vibe he is aiming for, encouraging you to actually engage with the process of abstract art. If you play the game, make sure to have your headphones on and just enjoy the sound (although maybe take them off if you’re stuck on a puzzle, as things can get a little repetitive due to the deliberate sparseness of the soundtrack). The game genuinely creates the ambiance of an art gallery, but without the bother of actually having to go to one.
There is a demo available on the Switch shop, so it’s worth checking it out and seeing if this game looks like it would appeal. If it does, it’s a comparatively small £7.19 at full price, although that doesn’t translate into much in the way of playtime – at a push, this is maybe a couple of hours long. It’s a low pressure and relaxing experience, and it’s not afraid to take its time as it works to evoke the nature of the art gallery on your console. It’s not a game for everyone – it’s slow and at points a little repetitive – but I think that, if you like it, you’re really going to like it.
If you’re an art fan, or a puzzle fan, then Please, Touch the Artwork comes highly recommended – it’s a calm one, a game that invites reflection as it tests your brain, and it works well. I like a sedate and intuitive game that sets out to excel in certain things and does so, producing an exhibit that is well worth checking out.