Home / News / Please, Touch the Artwork 2 review – Undead Ensors and oil paint puzzling

Please, Touch the Artwork 2 review – Undead Ensors and oil paint puzzling

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Black and white skeleton on a painted field with buildings on the back

  • A painting-based puzzle experience that aims to show off the work of Flemish painter James Ensor
  • Please, Touch the Artwork 2 is a completely free game out now on iOS, Android and PC

When it comes to ‘games for good’, we most often think of charitable donations or other initiatives (something like Treesplease Games’ recent one million trees planted milestone courtesy of the players of Longleaf Valley).

But can games kickstart a love for traditional art and highlight the beauty of paintings, while remaining entertaining and interactive? That’s a challenge that Please, Touch the Artwork 2 is looking to tackle. This is developed by one-man team Thomas Waterzooi, who developed the game with assistance from the Flemish government to help highlight the work of famous modern artist James Ensor.

In it, you’ll explore his paintings, solve puzzles and meet eccentric characters, all while learning to appreciate the works of this lesser-known but still fascinating artist. But does it succeed? Well, let’s find out…

Synopsis

There isn’t a ‘story’ insofar as any kind of complex plot for Please, Touch the Artwork 2. It’s a very abstract sort of game, after all. You play as the ghost of famous artist James Ensor, wandering from painting to painting and solving puzzles as you go. All this is done with the goal of gradually repairing holes in the painting, accomplishing tasks for eccentric characters – such as a moustache-obsessed marching band leader, a cat-loving old lady or simply a drunk at a beach-side bar – and eventually moving on once you find the boards to repair the final easel.

While there isn’t anything beyond that, each section of the game is split into themes befitting the paintings used. For example, the prologue features numerous beachside or rustic paintings, while The City is set in a number of urban or interior environments. It’s an ingenious way of stringing together unconnected paintings into what feels like a coherent, living world.

Skeleton overlooking the painted buildings

Puzzles

If you’re expecting a brain-melting challenge, then you might be a little bit disappointed. Please, Touch the Artwork 2 does little to challenge the player beyond basic hidden object puzzles, line drawing and the occasional spot-the-difference sequence. That’s not to say any of these are easy – far from it, in fact.

The hidden object puzzles are the main cornerstone of the gameplay. As you move back and forth through the paintings, you’ll find that characters pop up thought balloons indicating a desired object. Find enough of these and they’re satisfied enough to move or otherwise alter the scene which allows you to progress.

The line drawing takes place when you discover a tear in the paintings and is needed to progress. Again, these don’t present much of a challenge but are decent brain teasers. You simply guide the bandage from point A to B without backtracking or crossing over the existing line. It’s all stuff you’ve seen before.

However, if you’re a fan of this type of gameplay – or even if you’re not – you’ll find these to be competently executed, and the way that these puzzles integrate the environment is quite clever. But if you ever get stuck, a simple hint system lets you know whether or not a desired object is on-screen, and tapping it will highlight at least one of them.

Graphics

Perhaps the most important part of the game are the graphics. Sure – this isn’t Unreal Engine 5, RTX wibbly-wobbly super-duper real-time graphics, but when a game is centring around art, it’s important that said art is well-represented. And that’s very much true of Please, Touch the Artwork 2. Via clever use of manipulation, animation and other editing, these different static paintings come alive. You won’t mistake them for being animated scenes, but the pop of colour and movement helps to ensure this is not merely an ‘eyes-only’ experience.Painting with human faces and skulls

Readability is also helped, with the animated skeletal Ensor being rendered in simple black and white, making it clear where you are on screen. I think the only thing that’s missing is perhaps some subtle hints as to where you go, as while you won’t find yourself getting totally lost, backtracking to find another route is not an uncommon occurrence. Fortunately, a large arrow indicates when you have found the next painting to step into.

What I don’t like

There’s arguably very little wrong with Please, Touch the Artwork 2. But my primary complaint is that the spot-the-difference puzzles break up the flow of the game too much. While it’s nice that they encourage you to examine some of Ensor’s works in-depth, you can feel your eyes straining to pick out the details. This is true on a big PC Screen, and even more so on a smaller phone screen. And while you have the hint system to help you out during the rest of the game, these sequences are conspicuously lacking in any kind of assistance.Seletal hand clicking on the painting in Please, Touch the Artwork 2

Additionally, while some may disagree, I’m personally a fan of games that offer optional in-depth encyclopaedia entries or other optional information to dive into. It doesn’t fit every game, but it would be nice for Please, Touch the Artwork 2 to have offered a brief biography of Ensor, and maybe the names of each painting which you visit. As it stands, someone who plays purely for the game may appreciate it at the moment, but they won’t necessarily learn more about the history and background of this fascinating man.

Conclusion

Overall, Please, Touch the Artwork 2 is a simple yet enjoyable experience. With its unique graphical style and gameplay which capitalises on it, I’d say it’s a decent enough puzzle game. As far as art education goes, I think it could go a bit further to show off more of James Ensor’s background and inform the player, even if only with optional extras. But, given that this game is available for the low, low price of absolutely free, I’d be hard-pressed not to recommend it. So give it a go today, on a smartphone (iOS and Android) or PC!

And if you’re looking for new games to play, why not check out some of our other reviews? Like crafting game Potion Permit, or if you’re more interested in hardware, you can also check out our hands-on review of the REDMAGIC Shadow Blade Gamepad.

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