You know what people love? Fishing. It’s something that you can explain, in graphic detail, to anyone and everyone who’s ever been hungry and they will get the concept. You want to catch a fish out of the ocean, and either eat it or mount it or just throw it back into the water like you’re some weirdly temperamental God. But fishing, despite its immediately identifiable premise, just is not for everyone. Especially the waiting and having approximately two to three minutes of action for every hour you spend in a boat, as quiet as possible, watching the day pass. Even still, it’s immensely popular to a certain group of people across the world. I use the example of fishing as a setup to look a bit more into the puzzle game, Qbics Paint, because I can absolutely understand the appeal, and am completely not the target audience.
Qbics Paint is a touch-screen based puzzle game that comes to us from Abylight Studios, who brought us the deeply underappreciated Stop Stress on the Wii Shop so many moons ago (plus many other games, I just loved Stop Stress). The concept is this: you have a category of ten puzzles, and a one word clue as to what it is you’re looking for. Each stage presents you with a large, nondescript block of pixel cubes, and you slowly chisel out whatever the one word clue may be. Depending on where you touch, several blocks may fall off at once, and, once you see color, you need to carefully hunt and peck to take off the rest of the filler cubes. Reveal the hidden item in its entirety to win, and then you can paint it to your heart’s desire with a 3D paint application that lets you manipulate and stylist the revealed item however you’d like, at least in terms of color. There’s really not much more to it, though I will say there is the option to create your own Qbics as a personal art project, though not as a personal puzzle to share with others (hopefully a future update).
Qbics Paint relies entirely on the touchscreen, and I do mean entirely. There is no response from any of the buttons on the JoyCons, save for the screenshot and home buttons respectively. I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to get into games that so completely dismiss the tangible controllers. Sure, there is a touchscreen for a reason, and I understand that some games simply wouldn’t work without implementing a forced setup of how to interact. Still, I always feel like a touchscreen only game brings me back to the mobile gaming issue, and how the smartphone market became so hyper saturated with low-to-no effort games, especially in the last year or so. Qbics, thankfully, makes total sense in the design application, as I think trying to choose each block with the controllers, however accurate, would be a logistical nightmare and take hours for a single puzzle, whereas the touch controls means some stages can go as quickly as three minutes, perfect for the pick up and play market.
The progression of Qbics Paint depends entirely on your accuracy and patience. Once you reveal where the item in your cube is situated, you stop being a pixel miner and become more like Sam Neill in Jurassic Park, lightly dusting off erroneous cubes to find what lies beneath. You get scored on how well you unearth the solution, based on a three star rating system, and each new world of puzzles only unlocks if you get a certain number of stars overall. Touch the central sculpture even once and you can kiss the three star rating goodbye. One touch doesn’t automatically knock you down to two stars, so there’s a bit of leniency on passing, but certainly not on perfection. I did my best to keep a steady hand and a focused eye, but even early on I found myself cursing with missteps. You see, you can spin the block all around and can even look down from the top, but you can’t really see from the underside of the cube, and that creates a problem. The first world is all animals. Animals tend to have legs and stomachs. Getting under the animal to clear away the blocks that are between legs is sometimes a little tricky, and having a view from below would have made things significantly easier.
For people who like to measure twice and cut once, there is “unbreakable mode.” Unbreakable mode doesn’t guarantee an easy, perfect finish, but it does prevent you from losing the level. You can rampage through the puzzle, hitting the revealed specimen as many times as you like, and the worst you can do is finish with zero stars. You already see what the target looks like prior to entering the stage, but seeing exactly where it is in regards to the block is somewhat helpful. I got into a rhythm of smashing out the item, thinking about what to do, then redoing the level with a capacitive stylus that I picked up from the dollar store. It worked great, but I’m again remembering that I’m now playing a smartphone puzzle game on my Nintendo Switch and it feels weird. But that’s the great thing about having a variety of games and titles on the Switch is that there doesn’t have to be a full stigma about it, and more and more titles exploring different ways to use the Switch makes it more familiar. Hell, if VOEZ can deliver a fantastic touch screen experience, and Qbics Paint can do it well, we could have some more great touchscreen games in the pipeline (although thank you to Oceanhorn for having buttons).
Qbics Paint does a solid job of nailing the cubic motif, give you everything from frogs to airplanes to look at as you bring them to life through destruction. The medieval stage in particular had some really cool designs to it that took a LOT longer to carve out, but were pretty fun to discover and behold. The human beings are a little creepy in their default painting (the thumbnail for the game speaks volumes) but you can repaint them pretty quickly to look more cartoony and less evil. The most relaxing part of the game is the paint design that comes after the puzzle. It reminds me of doing small models in junior high art class, or maybe paying someone fifty dollars to let me do a still life in a strip mall while I drink cheap wine. Either way, that’s where Qbics Paint really finds its strength, in the painting sessions. Not everyone wants to create massive worlds and maps that rival those of actual countries: some of us are content to make a house, color it blue and call it a day.
With a sufficiently upbeat soundtrack to drive everything forward, Qbics Paint is a humble, simple concept that is well executed and polished. It takes a certain amount of disassociation to see that a game/movie/cosplay is expertly crafted and definitely not your taste. I’ve never played a football game that I was wild about, but the proof is in the pudding that folk like to either kick a ball or run with a ball on their consoles and PCs. Qbics Paint has a large audience out there: people who want to take their Switch on the go and occasionally break from splatting and punching to simply puzzle and paint. It’s almost endearing, and it was done with a pretty robust number of puzzles to accomplish and accessibilitiy. I can’t promise that this is the game that I come back to every time I have a few minutes, but this is actually pretty fun, and could be a solid investment before a flight, long car ride or even just something to pass the time between larger gaming events.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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