Paint By DS Review

It’s a painting game. On the DS. No more, no less. Forget the user-driven cutesiness of LittleBigPlanet or the impending testosterone overload that is Gears of War 2- Paint by DS gets my GOTY nomination simply for doing exactly what it says on the tin, a rare quality in a market sagging under the weight of buzzwords and colons.

Unfortunately that’s almost all the praise I’m prepared to give it. Paint by DS is clearly designed to appeal to the casual gaming demographic, with a low price point and scrupulously undemanding mechanics. It’s chief ‘draw’ [comedy gold!– ed] is that it lets you have your merry way with fifteen real, proper, genyouwine works of art from a range of periods and nationalities, including paintings by Cezanne, Hokusai and Van Gogh.

The stylus is your brush or pencil, as you might expect. The touch screen displays a line drawing of your subject, while the top screen lets you view it in all its original glory. You can pick colours from a selection along the bottom of the touch screen or mix your own using a palette. Different widths and thicknesses of brush, water and erasers are available from a menu on the right. Once you’re done, the game scores you out of five for the fidelity of your brushwork and saves your creation to the gallery.

There’s scope for quite a lot of tinkering here and the zoom view allows for a respectable degree of precision. Trouble is, it’s just not a patch on actually painting. Why blow twenty quid to push coloured dots around a screen the size of a credit card when you can buy a bog-standard canvas for half the price, nab some of your mum’s old oil paints and live the dream? Or if you absolutely must work with pixels, why not download one of the many free PC graphics packages doing the rounds? At least you won’t have to squint.

I’m being a touch naive, of course. Kids will be tickled by the idea of carrying a customisable art gallery around in their pockets, and Paint by DS will no doubt also endear itself to the strident hosts of concerned but ignorant parents, glad to see their offspring getting a little ‘education’ via that disturbing electronic hobby. Mercury Games have bigger fish to fry, however. According to one press release, the game ‘has been developed for the busy, modern urbanite to aid relaxation’ and patronising tone aside I can just about countenance this, though I’d rebut that the ‘busy, modern urbanite’ would be much better served by something like Hotel Dusk.

Outside of the main game, you can ‘Take A Break’ and indulge in some banal mini-game fodder to unlock new types of canvas and items for the gallery. Puzzle is one of those sliding-panel jigsaw things, Pixel Race is Operation! without the body parts, Memory is memorise-the-sequence-and-regurgitate, and Hit & Error is whack-a-mole with squirrels. There’s nothing here worthy of remark, other than that in Hit & Error you lose points if you bop a squirrel wearing a ribbon, but get a bonus if you sock one wearing a top hat. Some kind of pro-feminist, anti-capitalist statement, no doubt. Chin up Castro, the revolution is alive and kicking!

Paint by DS is good at what it does, but what it does is a little surplus to requirements. If you’re looking for five minutes of downtime between tube stops, I’d advise you to invest in one of the console’s many engrossing but slow-paced point-and-click adventure titles; if you’re looking for an artistic outlet, I suggest skipping the videogames aisle at your local WHSmith and venturing into the stationary section.