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DS  header logo

Paint by DS

For: DS

Art attack

Product: Paint by DS | Developer: Ertain BV | Publisher: Mercury Games | Format: DS | Genre: Casual | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Paint by DS DS, thumbnail 1
One of the best things about video games is being able to fulfil all kinds of outlandish fantasies. If you want to be a fighter pilot or Formula One driver there's a game out there that'll allow you to indulge these lofty dreams.

Paint by DS follows this same principle – it's just a bit lower adrenaline. So instead of taking down Russian MIG-29s or lapping a humiliated Fernando Alonso, you're placed in the shoes of an aspiring artist.

Which might not rank too highly when it comes to 'the top ten dream professions', but there's no denying the opportunity to express your creative side via the medium of interactive entertainment holds some appeal.

Having said that, the fact that previous video game 'art' packages (such as the appalling Sega Mega Drive game, for those old enough to remember it, Art Alive) have all failed to make their mark in gaming history is something that developer Ertain presumably – and bravely – chose to ignore.

Before you get any visions of painstakingly sketching out your masterpiece, however, it's worth noting that Paint by DS does exactly what it says on the tin; you never get to actually draw your own creation but rather paint the works of other notable artists. Think 'digital painting by numbers' and you're pretty much there. Several famous names make an appearance, including heavyweights of the art world such as Van Gogh and Cézanne.

Before you begin adding splashes of colour to your pre-selected monochrome outline, it's recommended that you have an idea of what you're aiming for. By pressing the relevant icon you can consult the 'target' image in full colour, and it's then your task to get as close to that finished product as possible.

At your disposal are myriad different tools (brushes, pencils, etc) and a palette of colours to mess around with. Depending on what kind of tool you use, you can create a watercolour, oil or pencil composition.

Each method differs in terms of visual effect, just as you would expect in the real world. Pencils give a grainy look, whereas oils permit swathes of thick, vibrant colour. As is the case for anyone who has ever owned a colouring book, the golden rule here is to stay within the lines. Thankfully, the benefit of a virtual equivalent is that you can erase any mistakes that arise from the odd random twitch.

What it can't do is make the process any quicker. A picture can take hours to replicate so it comes as a blessing that you can save your progress at any point and return to it when you're refreshed. You can't rush art, after all.

When you feel you've completed your work you can submit it for approval, which usually elicits a fairly dry comment from the virtual judge holed up inside your DS cart.

There are 15 different paintings to have a stab at, which if done to absolute perfection should take you a fair few weeks. The only limitation is your patience, and that is likely to run out fairly quickly thanks to the rather dull nature of the gameplay and the incredibly annoying background music.

Thankfully, the latter can be switched off, but there's very little to remedy the problems of the former.

When you get bored of colouring in pictures – and trust us, you will get bored – there are other features to tinker around with. The developer has obviously realised the core game isn't compelling enough keep people glued to their DS consoles for any length of time despite the considerable demands of its core activity and has therefore shoehorned in some absurdly unrelated mini-games.

These range from a derivative 'Whack a Mole' clone to super-dull sliding block puzzles that use the same pictures featured in the main game. The fact that, relatively speaking, more enjoyment is often gleaned from these forgettable, almost throwaway diversions should tell you all you need to know about Paint by DS's overall quality, really. Successful progress in these risible mini-games unlocks extra features in the central mode, but they have little to no impact on the generally flaccid level of entertainment on offer.

That said, Paint by DS isn't totally without merit. There's definitely something mildly therapeutic about pretending to paint a picture and the game engine works fairly well, offering a realistic interpretation of colouring in.

But, aside from the general tedium prevalent throughout the game, the biggest issue is that it's all rendered slightly pointless when you consider that for a fraction of the cost you can purchase several sheets of paper (or a painting-by-numbers book) and the required brushes and paints to do this all for real and at the end of it all at least have something you can stick on your wall and be proud/ashamed of. Paint by DS is a decent enough approximation of what it feels like to colour something in, but it's not like the real activity is wildly out of reach or unportable.

Ultimately, this is casual gaming taken a step too far. We're all for mainstream releases about mundane day-to-day tasks – Cooking Mama 2 is currently quite a favourite amongst members of the Pocket Gamer team – but this is pushing it.

If the concept still appeals to you despite the above words, then our recommendation is that you take the money Paint by DS would cost you and spend it in your local art shop instead. The end result is guaranteed to be more fulfilling and worthwhile, not to mention the fact that your works of art won't face the ignominy of being confined to the electronic prison of your DS.
Paint by DS
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 6 March 2008
Pint-sized Picassos may be enticed by Paint by DS but it would be a crying shame if they were to neglect real-world artistic endeavours in favour of this limp product
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