Paint it Back Review (PC)





  • Interesting puzzler
  • Nice difficulty curve
  • Actually teaches logical thought


  • May work better on the move as a mobile/handheld game rather than PC
  • Will cause your brain to melt at several points

Puzzle games are something that I both love and hate. I do hundreds of crosswords a year, Sudoku too, but I never seem to really get any closer to excelling at them. And don’t even talk about cryptic crosswords. They just make me want to throw my paper out the window and possibly begin questioning the parentage of the world at large…

And so I feel I must mention that at the time of writing I had not managed to finish this game. I had made my way through about 1/3 of the total paintings that are available and most of them had me wracking my brains. Even writing this review is hard due to the amount of mental effort I have had to put into which blocks I should paint and which I shouldn’t…

OK. So I should probably start talking about the actual game instead of yammering on right?

Paint it Back 2015-10-11_00004Paint it Back is a puzzle game from Casual Labs. It takes the logical rules of a grid game like Sudoku but removes the numbers. Well. Sort of anyway. Here’s a picture so you can see for yourself. Cause my brain is melting trying to explain this…

Right. So now to explain what is actually going on here…

Your job is to repaint all the paintings in an art gallery that have been scared off the canvas by a ghost. Each pixel art painting consists of a grid with numbers next to each column and row that denote how many, and in some cases in what groups, of squares within should be painted. For instance, see the second column from the left? The 5 at the top means that 5 squares in that column are to be coloured in… which makes that an easy one to start with as there are only 5 squares available…

Paint it Back 2015-10-15_00002Screenshot incoming to demonstrate…

Make sense? Right… So what about the 1,1? surely there aren’t eleven squares available to paint when the grid is a five by five? That means that there are two groups of one square each in that row… See? Now for the column with nothing written above it. That column is guaranteed to be blank. From all of this you can work out which squares to paint and which ones to leave blank. And as an extra little hint there’s a coloured version on the easel in the top left corner of the screen. Seems simple enough right? OK. Now imagine that the grid looks like this…

Paint it Back 2015-10-15_00004
Okay. So now you’re getting the idea.

Now I think I’ve given you an idea of the core mechanics, lets talk about what I thought.

Here’s just a few of the things I think Casual labs did right. The puzzles are all completely solvable. If you learn to think right. While there will be points in the game where you feel like you don’t actually have a clue what to do next. If you reach that point it’s usually a good idea to step back and restart the puzzle. I get the feeling that everyone who plays this game will be completely frustrated a few times but it just makes that moment when you finally complete the painting that much more satisfying.

The music is the standard 8-bit plinky plonky that I have come to expect in the casual genre. This is not meant as a particularly bad point. It just seems that every casual game I try has a similar sound palate. You know what you’re getting when you hear a certain type of cheerful 8-bit bink and bonk. It’s quite reassuring actually.

screenshot4The graphic style is very cartoon and almost childish. Which again fits the casual nature of the game. Even the premise of ‘Ghost scared all the paintings away’ fits. Paint it Back is never trying to come across as anything other than a ‘pick me up for a few minutes and wonder where the last 6 hours have gone’ Facebook game and that is to its credit. Hell Even the developers are called Casual Labs… Surely that tells you something…

As you move from exhibit to exhibit in the art gallery the difficulty ramps up reasonably quickly. I have to admit that some of the paintings are still stumping me but the rate of new unlocks means that I can quite easily skip a few and come back to them later when either I have become better at figuring things out.. or I’ve had a lot to drink… either or would probably help in this case.

The controls are also nice and simple. Left click to paint/delete a square and right-click to mark it with a little X to signify that you know for a fact it’s going to be blank. Controller support is also available with the equivalent buttons being A and B.

Some of the paintings have more than one grid. These can be completed individually for one ‘medal’ or all at once for two or three depending on the size of the painting.

Paint it Back 2015-10-16_00001The ‘Helping Hand’ you see in the bottom right of the last screenshot is a nice little way to help you along. While it prevents you from winning the ribbon when you finish the painting, it will automatically correct any mistakes you make as and when you make them. I am happy to say that I only ever used it once and that was only so I could tell you what it did. I am a stubborn sort of idiot who will rip the answers out of a crossword puzzle book and burn them in flames of righteous fire in order to prevent myself from cheating.

The pricing of the game is slightly odd though. While searching for prices online I found that the iOS app store has a full game unlock at $2.99, while steam’s full price is £5.59. Since it appears that you are essentially getting the same game on what I feel is a better suited platform it seems slightly disappointing that the PC version is so much more expensive. However I find it difficult to believe that Valve and/or Apple had nothing to do with the respective costs so I’ll simply say that it’s gonna end up in a steam sale eventually so if paying more than £5 for a game that will keep you engrossed for several days is something you don’t like the sound of then patience may be the better part of valour in this case.

All in all I quite enjoyed my time with Paint it Back. It was a refreshingly cerebral experience, rather different from the games I’ve reviewed in the past. My only reservations were the platform I was playing on and the price. Unfortunately I don’t have access to an iOS phone or tablet so I am going to be keeping an eye on the Google Play store for the day that it migrates over to the Android way of things. In the meantime I think I’ll go back and attempt that 30×20 grid again.. I swear to the Gods of Maths and Logic that I will prevail!

7 Pixel Paintings out of 10

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