Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Watercolors for iPhone and iPad

I'm glad to host another review by Roberto Canogar. Hopefully more will follow!

Watercolors, developed by ADONIS SOFTWARE from Romania, is a Free game that was released a couple of months ago. It reached the #1 position in the Education category in 77 countries, and in the Puzzle category in 13 countries (including big countries like USA, UK and Canada to name a few).

At the moment the number of players in Game Center is close to one million. So, we can say it has been a successful game. But, is it a good puzzle game? What are the reasons behind its success? Lets try to answer these questions.

Watercolors is a game about mixing colors and also about drawing. I think that games that let you draw with colors have an immediate gratification. All of us secretly would love to know how to paint.

This game lets you mix colors effortlessly and with a clear objective, something that in real life is much more smudgy. Also, this theme seems to be a good match for the Education category as the numbers above suggest. Other puzzles inspired by these ideas come to mind: Flow Free and especially Puzzle Restorer.

Well, now let's talk about the game mechanics of Watercolors. This game is about mixing three elementary colors: blue, red and yellow. So first we have to get very familiar on how they mix.
Bellow we see a detail of Level 1 and Level 2. The first one (on the left) shows us that we have to drag colors from filled circles to glowing and hollow circles of the same color by following a path of connected white circles.

The second level (on the right) tells us that we can combine colors by dragging a color on top of another one. So we can make a first stroke from the yellow filled circle to the empty spot indicated by the arrow, and then we can make a second stroke from the blue filled circle all the way to the bottom because as we pass the yellow circle the stroke changes to green (Blue+Yellow=Green).

But level 2 can be drawn with one stroke! We start it from the yellow filled circle and we go to the blue filled circle which will change color to green (see left). Then without lifting the finger we go all the way to the hollow green circle (see right).

By solving levels with the minimum number of strokes we gain 3 stars, and for suboptimal solutions we receive 2, 1 or even 0 stars. I enjoy finding the minimum number of moves.

It is quite rewarding to do all the steps that are involved in the resolution of a puzzle. First we have to look at the picture, recognizing the elementary colors and the compound colors and their relative positions. Second we plan our strokes, and third we execute them. Many times the strokes are long and go back and forth the screen, and change several times of color as they pass through different solid circles. Like the next one, that can be solved with one long stroke.
But then, the next level is essentially the same, even the same colors. OK, instead of Snakes (look at the title of the levels) we have to draw a Fancy Glass, but that's it.

The next one, level 10, is almost the same again. This happens often. Level 5 and 6 are equally similar. Then level 11 and 12 are also the same. I often think "OK, I've got it... don't bore me, please!". But this repetition is done purposely, and it probably makes more good than harm. I don't like repeating puzzles, but there must be a lot of people who prefer it this way.

Apart from the tiresome learning curve I would say that the level design is dull. One is rarely surprised by a cleverly designed level. Sporadically, one gets a very tough one (e.g. level 17 of the Three-Colors pack). There is a Pro-Pack which is challenging, but the levels look messy and chaotic. The result is that the levels are not enticing at all.

To add more variety there is a time mode, where we have to solve as many levels as possible in a specific amount of time. But the selection of levels presented in the time mode seems like a random selection of levels from the standard mode. So we may start with a trivial level, followed by a very complex one. There is so much luck involved in the random selection that I don't enjoy it, frankly.

Anyway, I have to give a thumbs up for the presentation of the game. It is mostly white, very clean, nothing groundbreaking but simple and effective. The omnipresent white is a perfect backdrop for all the colorful strokes that you do. Then the user interface is quite good in general, but there are two things I dislike. First, the undo button doesn't discount the number of strokes, so if one wants to get three stars it is useless.

The second problem is that the figures that you paint resemble objects (Snakes, Fancy Glass), so they tend to have many connected circles very close together, much more than otherwise required. So it is very easy to paint a wrong circle, which often implies starting over. This is more of a problem on the iPhone, and it is a big problem when you are under time pressure. In this sense the Grid-Pack worked better for me, because in this pack the connections are made through a grid so it very easy to follow a path.

So, in summary, this is mostly an easy game, and thus very approachable. And even after all my criticism, playing it is an enjoyable experience. Probably these are two of the reasons of its success. But as a puzzle game it could have been better.


Logical Reasoning★★☆☆☆
User Interface★★★☆☆
Loading Time★★★☆☆
Saves Partial Progress
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