Simple is better. That’s the maxim behind Watercolors, a puzzle game based on the rudimentary relationships between red, blue and yellow. Using only these primary colors, Watercolors players are tasked with painting hundreds of tiled stages, all laid out in unique and increasingly complex patterns. The experience, at once meditative and mentally stimulating, is satisfying in either short spurts or at length, and is suitable for youngsters and grown-ups alike.
Anyone with a basic understanding of mixing colors can dig into Watercolors in seconds. Drag a color from its starting position to a target tile of the same color. If the target tile indicates a secondary color—orange, green, purple—then you’ll need to mix the appropriate primary colors on the way. Game modes include free play, timed play and an option to challenge friends on specific stages.
Later levels, however, can get a little hairy. The introduction of more advanced mechanics, like overpasses and serpentine maps, shifts the game from lightly contemplative to downright brain-teasing. The shift is a welcome one, though, as Watercolors’ level design is consistently clever. There is certainly a rhythmic sweet spot to be found once you get the hang of it.
Watercolors’ overall presentation is delightful. Menus consist of clean, attractive fonts. Its colors, both primary and secondary, are soft, nearly pastel. A lightly percussive background track, though repetitive, feels appropriate for the game’s gentle pace and ambiance. Adonis Software even had the presence of mind to include a “colorblind mode” for the visually impaired. All in all, Watercolors is a thoroughly well-designed mobile package.
That said, there are a few glaring omissions. Watercolors is packed with content, more than 200 stages in total, but none of them include a thumbnail preview. Such an omission dramatically decreases the game’s replay value, as the odds of anyone clicking through 100 levels to find a specific one is roughly nil. The game’s time trial mode, though a great idea, is dampened by its re-use of stages from free play mode. As it is, being quick about solving a level has less to do with skill than it does memorization. I also would have liked to see my game stats—average number of moves per turn, total number of stars earned—in a concise, accessible format.
Watercolors may not break the puzzle mold, but it presents a colorful and worthwhile option for those looking for that brain-teaser fix. It’s also one of the more visually pleasing puzzle titles in recent memory.
Watercolors was designed by Adonis Software. It is available for iOS devices.
Matt Akers is a freelance journalist based in Boston. He writes about geek culture and works for a youth literacy project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Follow him on Twitter @ScholarlyLad.