Please, Touch The Artwork (PC) Review

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Please, Touch The Artwork is an artistic zen-puzzler, developed and self-published by Thomas Waterzooi (who previously worked with Larian and IO-Interactive). With a strong visual style, relaxing soundtrack, and underlying narrative, it can be a soothing but engaging way to pass a few hours so long as you know what you’re getting into. That said, not all puzzles are made equal.

When it comes to the narrative, there’s an initial dialogue-driven interaction with the curator, who explains there are three puzzle variants, reassures you that touching the artwork is encouraged, and insists you tackle it at your own pace. There are also a few multiple-choice questions that supposedly tweak the difficulty but (I think) they only direct you to one of the three puzzle types that best suits your current mood.

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You can chat to the curator, flick between puzzle types, and retry earlier puzzles at any time.

Rather than conventional storytelling, each of the three puzzle variants has a running theme and narrative subtext for those that want it. The first puzzle is about the origins of abstract art, with a focus on composition using lines and colour, presented in a biblical style (think: “On the first day…”). The second details the trials of Boogie & Woogie – two squares that perfectly fit into one another – as they attempt to stay connected as the world grows around them. The third is about the experience of moving to a big city and trying not to lose sight of what matters in an increasingly busy and chaotic environment.

All three puzzle modes do a great job of using the visuals to convey their themes, but the actual “gameplay” experience is more variable and will cater to different tastes. Regardless of your preferences, Please, Touch The Artwork focuses on ease-of-play and provides an ever-present hint button should you get stuck. If you can point-and-click with a mouse and tap the WASD keys, you can tackle all the puzzles on offer. This also ensures remapping controls to a gamepad is straightforward if that’s your preference.

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The abstract art puzzles were both a mechanical and audio-visual highlight.

The abstract art puzzles are the most challenging and complex, with a focus on experimentation, memory, logic, and careful turn-order to replicate an art piece in as few moves as possible. There’s also no denying the cathartic audio-visual feedback of seeing geometric shapes form, and watching colour spread across your canvas. Later puzzles are tough, but you can always go back a step or reset the puzzle outright once you’ve figured out the correct sequence and want to hit the par score.

I felt the Boogie and Woogie puzzles were the most charming, with a clearer narrative premise and each successive puzzle representing their growing town and the challenges of finding one another in the sprawl. However, from a gameplay standpoint, you’re again experimenting, memorising, and planning your moves. Once clicked, each Woogie sets off along a fixed path, its movement modified by coloured squares (think left and right turns, or interconnected tunnels). The goal is to reach a corresponding Boogie without hitting a dead end or blocking the path of another Woogie.

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Why don’t Boogie and Woogie just move in together?!

The final set of puzzles was by far the least engaging for me, despite a strong visual representation of its themes. You advance a line along diverging paths in an increasingly cluttered labyrinth, collecting letters that complete the lines of a poem that convey the mixed emotions of someone who has moved away from family and friends to a big city packed with opportunities. The correct path becomes increasingly difficult to find as the screen becomes cluttered with overlapping lanes and visual distortion, but the core gameplay remains consistent – simply tap WASD to guide the line around until you’ve completed the poem fragment and move to the exit.

No matter which puzzle mode you’re playing, Please, Touch The Artwork remains visually simple but striking, using defined geometric shapes and contrasting primary colours for both aesthetics and conveying gameplay information. There’s subtle but satisfying audio feedback for most actions simple actions, and the jazz soundtrack provides a calm ambiance no matter how tough the puzzle is.

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If systematically navigating visual chaos is your thing, you might enjoy the third puzzle variant more than I did.

As a $10-equivalent, short, and relaxing indie experience – think 3ish hours dependant on your puzzle-solving skills – Please, Touch The Artwork gets a thumbs up. Admittedly, not all puzzle modes are equally engaging and some might find the underlying narrative subtext unnecessary, but there’s something for everyone, it’s easy to play, and there’s a hint system if you get stuck. I can think of far, far worse ways to pass a few hours.

Please, Touch The Artwork (PC) Review

Please, Touch The Artwork (PC) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    7/10 Good
    More like an optional subtext but it provides motivation to push forward if you enjoy it.
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
    Simple but complex, challenging but relaxing. However, not all puzzle types feel as engaging.
  • Visuals
    8/10 Very Good
    Simple, striking, and always compliment the underlying themes.
  • Audio
    7/10 Good
    The jazz soundtrack is limited and the audio feedback subtle, but it makes for a soothing experience on the ears.

The Good

  • A narrative subtext for those that want it
  • Three different puzzle variants to tackle at your own pace
  • Striking visuals and jazz-inspired soundtrack
  • A great way to relax for a few hours

The Bad

  • Ambiguous “difficulty” settings
  • The “big city” puzzles are not very engaging
Total
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