I’ll preface this review with a frank confession: I love art history, and I also know way less about it than I’d like. One of the greatest experiences of my life was having the opportunity to spend a month in London studying Western Civilization history and art. It was a pleasant surprise then, to stumble across Artistico, a quirky puzzle game all about art and art history.
The game’s premise is as odd as the game itself. As explained by the game’s intro video, the story is about a man who drifts off to sleep while contemplating his favorite art pieces. While he dreams, his pet bird finds itself lost inside his dreams. It is then up to the player to guide the bird back to his owner by piecing together famous works of art.
It’s all right if I lost you there, as the game’s story is as dreamy and open to interpretation as some of the art you encounter along your journey. Each stage plays somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle: you’ll be presented with a faded outline of a famous work of art, and as you restore the pieces to their rightful spots, the surrounding area becomes flooded with color, bringing the art back to life. It’s quite nice to see the finished art at the end of each stage (on retina devices the pieces look really fantastic!), though a gallery feature to see completed works would have been a nice inclusion.
You’ll earn points (and up to three stars on a stage) for speed, but as I played through the game, I found that I paid very little attention to that. Instead, I found that the reward came from seeing the works come alive–and finding the place for that last tricky piece just in the nick of time! A giant clock sits in the upper right-hand corner, urging you to finish the puzzle quickly before time runs out. There are also powerups to use, such as a magnet that places one piece for you, or ice that freezes the clock. The game also has a beautiful original soundtrack that compliments the art nicely.
At the end of each stage, you’ll be rewarded with some interesting trivia about the work you’ve completed. There’s some good stuff in there–I found myself learning a thing or two about Cezanne style, and what “christomimesis” means. I even recognized a few pieces from my travels in London. There’s a good selection of artwork on display in this game, and it will take some time to see it all. The developer has also promised more stages will come in future updates via in-app purchases.
The biggest drawback for this game is simply the lack of variety in gameplay. As the game progressed, I found that it rarely introduced new gameplay mechanics. The stages got harder by introducing more pieces and smaller fragments, but this only served to increase the difficulty. This is very disappointing, because the game really has a lot going for it, and with a new gameplay mode or two, it could really be a notable game.
I enjoyed Artistico for what it is: a relaxing, casual experience that just might teach you a thing or two about art. No, it’s not Infinity Blade–and it doesn’t have to be. One of the things I’ve grown to love about the iPad is that it allows for some games to flourish that just wouldn’t work on other platforms. Artistico is not a game designed to be played aggressively in an attempt to achieve a high score; it’s a game meant to be played by the fireplace, preferably with a cup of hot tea.
Here’s an App Store link for Artistico; it’s a free app with additional stages purchasable via in-app purchases as mentioned above.
Disclosure: The post author was provided with a promo code for Artistico. For information on our review policies please see our About page.