It's interesting to see how retro video game art is still so popular — you rarely see filmmakers presenting an entire movie in black and white just because that's how films used to be made. Perhaps due to nostalgia and the ease of creating game assets, pixel art continues to be popular in the indie game scene.
If you're interested in making some pixelated masterpieces of your own but don't know where to start, Pixel Paint on 3DS aims to help. More of an app than a game, Pixel Paint gives users the tools they need to create their favourite characters and landscapes from classic games, or come up with all-new assets on their own.
The app is easy to pick up even for those without an art background — a simple toolbar allows you to select a tool, insert shapes, cut/paste and fill empty spaces, and select a colour. The drawing grid makes it easy to be pixel-perfect, and if you've got a hankering to create something that looks like it could be at home on Game Boy or NES, Pixel Paint nicely includes several colour palettes to mimic those available on retro systems.
Of course, you can save creations in progress and pick them up later, and when you've completed your masterpiece you can export it to Miiverse so others can enjoy and comment on what you've made.
If all this sounds a bit familiar to you, it's because this game was actually released on Wii U nearly two years ago — thus, Pixel Paint on 3DS is essentially a port of its console brother. What's a shame is that the developers missed an opportunity to make this version even better.
The main feature upgrades in the 3DS version of Pixel Paint are an eraser tool (so you don't have to change your pencil or brush to white to erase), a set of shape tools to easily create circles, squares, triangles and straight lines, and the ability to export your drawings to your system's SD card (which is much appreciated since it doesn't lock your drawings to the system). This version also lets you view the controls without exiting to the main menu, which helps reduce having to save and leave your drawing while starting out.
While these additions are welcome and certainly improve the package, it's the things that were left out here that keep Pixel Paint on 3DS from being a must-own. The 3D effect is sadly limited to a graphic on the game's title screen — it could have been awesome to see your pixel creations pop in 3D. In addition, the app lacks any sort of tutorials, guides, or stencils to help novices along.
Another eyebrow-raising aspect of this port is that the Cut and Copy functions perform exactly the same as each other. You'd expect the Cut function to remove the selection after pasting it; since this was an issue in the Wii U version, we wonder why it wasn't fixed here.
The game includes background music, which is fine but nothing you'd want to listen to for an hour while working on your art. You'll definitely want to have an audiobook or some other music at the ready when working in Pixel Paint.
In the end, whether this app is worth the cost comes down to your artistic drive. For just a few dollars, it's custom-made software that makes creating retro art easier than in, say, Microsoft Paint. However, if you don't know much about creating pixel art and are looking to start, Pixel Paint doesn't provide anything to keep you going other than your own creativity, so you might get bored quickly.
If the idea of creating your own art doesn't appeal to you, you won't find much to love here. Considering that this is a port of a two-year old app, we expected some more features to be added or at the very least not have issues present in the original release (copy and cut being duplicated), but this is a fine tool to sink your teeth into if you think you'd enjoy working with it; with that said if you own the Wii U version you need not double dip on this one.
Pixel Paint 3DS is a fine tool for creating pixel art, but as a port it doesn't improve on its predecessor enough to make it great. Creative types will find a lot to love here, but beginners looking for tutorials or some help along the way won't benefit a great deal. Whether you'll enjoy what Pixel Paint 3DS has to offer comes down to your artistic abilities; we just wish that this could have been considered a definitive edition.