Art reference

Please, Touch the Artwork is a relaxing puzzle game about abstract art

In Please touch the illustration, developer Thomas Waterzooi turns paintings into puzzles, and all it takes is a gentle touch. The game is available on Apple and Android devices, as well as Windows PC via Steam and itch.io, and releases Wednesday – $3.99 on mobile and $9.99 on PC.

Built around classic abstract art from artists like Mondrian, Malevich and Kandinsky, Please touch the illustration has three built-in games – each dealing with a different style and artist. I played it on an iPhone, where the game benefits from touch functionality. I’m not dragging a cursor around the illustration; I am moving The artwork.

These three tables are each integrated with their own stories and puzzles. The first painting I touched was designed after the abstract block paintings of Piet Mondrian. (In fact, all three are more clearly inspired by Mondrian’s work.) The puzzles are simple: recreate the painting on the left by touching the painting. Please touch the illustration offers no detailed instructions on how to do this; you’re just pushing things until the rules become clear. While the game seemed opaque at first, I finally started to understand the rules – just in time for the following puzzles to increase in difficulty.

The other two paintings and their puzzles are similar. In one, you put together two small blocks, Boogie and Woogie, while another takes place in tangled city streets drawn in an abstract way, something like a vague Mini-highways. Each painting has different rules, but the whole idea remains the same: push things until you find the patterns, and keep doing it even when it gets really hard. In total, Waterzooi says there are over 160 levels across the three games.

Even when the puzzles are really hard, Please touch the illustration does not feel stressed. That’s by design: simple controls make it easy to restart and there’s no pressure to fix something quickly. Hints are also available when you get stuck, with no penalty. There’s a “par” meter, like in golf, that indicates the ideal set of moves to solve a puzzle, but it’s just there for reference.

It’s nothing like wordle, but I felt the same after completing a puzzle: satisfied, like I had accomplished something I should be proud of. I mostly played the first puzzle, considering that story about color and art before moving on to the other two. It’s not worth rushing through these just to “win” the game and solve these puzzles. The joy is in the slow act of just touching these paintings and seeing what happens.