Watercolors may sound like an app that you install to let your child craft their next crude masterpiece for you, but in reality it’s a puzzle game that uses a clever blend of color mixing and increasingly complicated maze structures to form a unique experience in the crowded puzzler space.
The basic setup for the game is that you start with red, yellow and/or blue paints at the beginning of each level. There are colored checkpoints around the level that you must reach and the paint color must be made to match the checkpoint color. Just as with real watercolors, you are able to change the color of your paint by touching two colors together.
It sounds quite simple, and the first stretch of levels ease you into it nicely, but the puzzles become ever more challenging as new elements like bridges and the need to eliminate colors are introduced in later levels. There are also two game play options: the first is “Free Play,” which applies a star scale for the quality of your win, determined by the number of brushstrokes it took you to complete the level. (Hint: A surprising number of times you should be able to complete the level in a single brushstroke.) The second option is “Time Trial,” and as the name suggests, you’re given an allotted amount of time to complete as many levels as you can.
One of my few complaints about the game is that in “Free Play” you’re not told at the beginning of the level what number of brush strokes is expected to get you a perfect score on that level, hence my hint above. As I said, the answer is very frequently one, but that’s not always the case, and I found it a bit frustrating to complete a level and find that my clever solution was lacking. Armed with the knowledge of how many brushstrokes were expected of me, I was always able to then go through and complete the level properly, so perhaps extending the game by not giving that information out is a good thing and won’t bother most users.
I initially felt a bit critical of the difficulty level of Watercolors, as it can range quite a bit from level to level instead of presenting a clear escalation of difficulty as you move on. As I played more and more, though, I found that I actually appreciated this. In some puzzle games, you reach a point where you get stuck on nearly every level, and this is often where you simply give up playing. I never hit that point with Watercolors, and so while it may not be as mind-bendingly difficult as some puzzlers, it is a game that you want to keep picking up and playing for quick sessions. For most people, that is exactly what they want out of their mobile games.
Watercolors isn’t a game that is going to tax your CPU or blow you away with 3D graphics. The visuals are colorful, crisp and clean, and that is exactly what is called for in this style of game. It’s also worth noting that there is a colorblind mode for those so afflicted, which I thought was a considerate touch. In this mode, a shape appears next to the colors to identify them, and when mixing is required, the two relevant shapes appear on top of one another.
Watercolors is available for free in the Play Store and as far as I was able to discern, you’re able to completely play through the game without ever making a purchase. With that said, there are a number of in-app purchases available, including instant access to some of the later levels and hints if you are completely stuck on a level. Making any purchase also gets rid of the ads in the game, which is worth the $1.08 minimum purchase if you enjoy the game.
I spent far more time playing Watercolors than I needed to in order to complete this review, and that always speaks well for a game. It is an incredibly easy game to jump in and out of, with no level taking more than 1-2 minutes to solve, making it an easy go-to game for me whenever I had a few moments to spare. If you enjoy puzzle games, but would like to see a slightly different take on the genre, I’d recommend giving Watercolors a shot.