If you read our review of Color Zen on 3DS earlier this month or Color Zen Kids on Wii U most recently, you're in for a familiar ride with the latter title on 3DS. The laid-back colour-matching puzzler with the sweeping electronic soundtrack is back, and this time your children can play it on the go.
The objective of the entirely touch-based gameplay is to move geometric shapes around the screen to make the background change colour; the brain-bending puzzle aspect is figuring out what order to match colours in to clear each level. Color Zen Kids makes the shapes slightly bigger, the puzzles slightly easier, gives the game a brighter coat of paint, and the lush electronica composed by Steve Woodzell takes a more upbeat tone. The cute abstract art formed by the puzzles is a joy to look at, but don't think this is a dumbed-down kids-only affair; it's still difficult enough to appeal to adult players, and any fans of the original Color Zen will enjoy this new one as well.
Every puzzle appearing in the Wii U version of Color Zen Kids appears in the 3DS port, and the gameplay is essentially identical. There's a slight loading time between levels that doesn't appear in the home console version, but it's by no means a deal-breaker to get all the same content on a handheld platform. Sadly, like the first Color Zen on 3DS, all the gameplay takes place on the touch screen and doesn't utilise the system's upper screen at all; it simply displays the game's logo. The bright yellow background is a bit more pleasing to look at than the bland black background on the upper screen in the original Color Zen, but it's still a missed opportunity. One of Kids' biggest additions is sideways-oriented puzzles, so you'll need to hold your 3DS in the rarely-used "book" orientation to fully enjoy them – many of us haven't played this way since Brain Training back in 2006!
Unfortunately, Color Zen Kids sells for the same price as its predecessor on the eShop yet offers less than a quarter the number of puzzles – 100 levels to Color Zen's 460. You can even get Color Zen Kids on iOS and Android devices for slightly cheaper, so if all you want is a means to match shapes on the bus or train, that may be a less expensive alternative. If you're a veteran of the first game looking for more geometric puzzling and you can get past the price point, this is a great spin-off to the franchise, but if you're a new Zen player, you'll likely want to stick with the more comprehensive original before splurging on Kids.
For fans of the original Color Zen on 3DS, Color Zen Kids will be right up your alley... if you can swallow paying the same price for less than a quarter the amount of content. It's a cleverly-designed puzzler with a bright tone and fantastic music that will appeal to children and adults alike; if this is your first foray into the shape-matching series, though, you're probably better off with the superior value of the original.