If you read our review of Color Zen last month, you'll know exactly what to expect from Color Zen Kids. The soothing, touch-based colour matching puzzler has gained a more kid-friendly coat of paint – the colours are all slightly brighter, the puzzles are a bit easier and shaped like cute animals, and the memorable electronic soundtrack takes a slightly more upbeat tone; yet it's essentially the same game, and most of our Color Zen review applies to Kids as well. The two games are so similar, in fact, that Kids feels less like a spin-off and more like DLC, which is great news for fans of the original but doesn't offer anything new.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, it's simple: you move a collection of geometric shapes around the screen with your stylus to match colours together and make the entire screen transform into that hue. The challenge arises from figuring out what order to match the shapes so you finish the level with the desired colour, displayed around the frame of the gameplay area.
"Why does Color Zen Kids need to exist?" you may ask. The progenitor is a family-friendly affair with no decapitated heads or scantily-clad coeds in sight. Despite its meditative abstract art, Color Zen gets maddeningly challenging in the later levels, so Kids brings the difficulty down a notch, while still retaining enough challenge to appeal to adult fans of the original.
Color Zen Kids offers 100 puzzles for children to conquer; it's a solid number well worth the price of admission, but the original sells for the exact same price on the eShop and has 460 levels, so players can't help but feel a little less rewarded for the — admittedly modest — investment here. To make it easier for young'uns, Color Zen's difficult special modes like "Reflection" are absent in Kids, but they're not replaced by anything – you simply get fewer puzzles.
That's not to say Color Zen Kids isn't a solid offering; the 100 puzzles on tap are incredibly creative, with cuddly geometric animals galore. Sometimes the original could feel a bit too difficult even for adults, so with Kids' simplified approach, its challenge is more befitting of the relaxing atmosphere for players of all ages. New to the series, some of the puzzles in Kids are vertically-oriented, so players will want to turn the GamePad sideways to appreciate them; this doesn't look so great on the TV display unless you can somehow rotate your television 90 degrees, but since you'll be focusing entirely on the GamePad anyway, it doesn't make that big of a difference.
Color Zen Kids, like its predecessor, is built with solely the GamePad in mind. One of our major complaints in our review of the original was that the gorgeous soundtrack plays only through the GamePad speakers (or headphones), while your TV is totally silent. It seems like a simple fix, but the exact same oversight is present in Kids. At least one of the complaints in our previous review was addressed: instead of awkwardly tapping on the edge of the screen to bring up the pause menu, now there's a dedicated pause button in the bottom left corner of the screen. This small improvement makes it even stranger that the much more detrimental (but equally simple) audio issue was not addressed.
Color Zen Kids is not a bad game by any means. The puzzles are clever, the presentation is inviting, and the soundtrack is once again flawless. Yet with its predecessor containing over four times more puzzles at the exact same price on the eShop, and with its most glaring issue curiously still present in this new release, it's hard to recommend Kids over the original Color Zen. If you're willing to pay the price, though, Color Zen Kids provides more of the relaxing geometric puzzles you've come to expect that can appeal to fans young and old.