There’s something that needs to be said about applications on the 3DS, and that’s simply that there should be many more of them. Not only should there be more apps, but there should also be some really great apps that take a simple concept and turn it into something incredible using the 3DS’s technological capabilities. Thankfully, developer Collecting Smiles realised this before everyone else did and got to work on Colors! 3D.
While the concept is simple — make a drawing and painting application that allows users to create 3D images — Collecting Smiles managed to do it with such class that it’s hard to find flaws in the complete package. It’s true that, unlike the (generally) well received Art Academy series of drawing tools, Colors! 3D doesn't offer much in terms of lessons or guided practice, but the ease of use that this application provides makes those additional features seem frivolous. Not everyone who uses this app is a natural Van Gogh, and some out there may appreciate a pointer or two, but with the tools provided and the simplicity in control, even the most novice of artists can create wonders.
As you could probably guess, Colors! 3D is controlled mostly with the 3DS’s touch screen, and anything that you draw on the bottom screen will also be reflected on the above 3D screen, giving you a better idea of what your finished product will look like. When dragging or tapping the touch screen canvas with your stylus, one of the first things that you’ll notice is how comfortable it is to draw in this app. The 3DS’s touch screen may not be the most responsive in the world, but here it feels completely natural: pens work like pens and brushes feel like brushes. It sounds obvious, but it makes a huge difference.
Pressing the L button will bring up a menu from which you can choose different drawing tools, adjust the width of your brush, change the colour you’re working with and even choose how hard or softly you want your brush to press on the canvas. From this menu, you also have the option of importing a photo from your SD card to draw on if you don’t like working on a blank slate, or if you just want to insert silly moustaches onto your friends’ faces. Other options are available to you simply by pressing and holding different directions on the D-Pad, such as a moving tool or eyedropper, and quick options to adjust your painting pressure, but the options linked to the Circle Pad are what really make Colors! 3D such a treat to use.
While sliding the Circle Pad up or down simply allows you to zoom in or out on your canvas, sliding it left of right will allow you to swap between five different three-dimensional layers. This is the one feature that truly defines this application as a 3D drawing tool. Rather than simply allowing you to draw on one canvas and then deciding which bits and pieces to display in 3D, each painting in Colors! 3D is actually five canvases thick. The Circle Pad allows you to easily and seamlessly move between each of this canvases and choose how deep you want your painting to go. Mastering this can be a challenge at first, but as soon as you figure the technique out your painting will really come to life.
Any artwork that you create in this app can easily be saved to your 3DS’s SD card, which makes sharing your work effortless. While sharing your work with your friends is easy over Swapnote, you can also choose to share with the entire world in the Colors! Gallery. Assuming you’re connected to the internet via Wifi, the Gallery allows you to upload your artwork online, or gives you the option to browse the work of others. If you’re seeking inspiration, or if you just want to be in a state of shock at how much time and effort people put into their artwork, you can watch a sped-up playback of anyone’s process.
Another very welcomed feature of Colors! 3D is the multiplayer functionality. Most drawing utilities wouldn’t opt to include any type of multiplayer experience, but the ability to share a canvas with a friend in real time is a surprisingly exciting option. While drawing with a friend can be great fun, the only real drawback is that both players must own their own copy of the game, and it only works locally. Jens Andersson, director of Collecting Smiles, made it very clear in last year’s Colors! 3D interview that thie application wouldn't feature Download Play, but being able to play with friends over a Wifi connection would have been a much appreciated touch.
Though lacking in any type of structured play, Colors! 3D’s robust free drawing system and unique ability to let anyone create their own three-dimensional artwork more than make up for this. Sturdier multiplayer utilities would have been an appreciated addition, but the functionality provided is more than enough. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or someone who just likes to kill time doodling, Colors! 3D won’t disappoint.