Qbics Paint is not your traditional gaming experience. In fact, you could argue that it’s not trying to be a “game” at all. Up until this point, the majority of games released on the Nintendo Switch have been dedicated to showing off the hardware’s unique features and processing power while providing dynamic gaming experiences. Qbics Paint attempts to shake things up a bit by slowing them down.
What makes Qbics Paint stand out right from the start is that it’s one of the rare Switch titles that can only be played in handheld mode, which isn't too surprising when considering how it’s actually played. Designed to simulate the act of chiseling a statue out of stone, the entirety of gameplay involves tapping on the Switch's touchscreen to reveal the object hidden inside of a cube made up of smaller cubes. After you've revealed the hidden figure, you're then given the option to adorn it with a custom paint job or design your own creations and snap screenshots of them in front of preloaded backdrops. It's kind of like a cross between Minecraft and Picross 3D, but with almost all of the challenge and variety removed.
The point here isn’t to blindly tap on a cube until you reveal the prize inside like a virtual Kinder Egg; there is some small semblance of difficulty involved. As you begin to reveal the shape inside of your cube, you’ll find that tapping on the object itself begins to drain the color from three stars that float at the top of the screen. Draining all three stars results in the Qbics Paint equivalent of a game over that pushes you back to the menu, or you will be awarded the number of stars that you managed to keep intact when the entire hidden object is revealed. Earning more stars unlocks additional puzzles, so you’ll need to craft carefully in order to advance. You can also turn on “unbreakable mode” in the game settings which allows you to continue the stage even if you’ve completely drained your stars, but it won’t help in unlocking more puzzles.
While the bulk of gameplay centres around freeing sculptures from their cubic prisons, the other main draw is the creation aspect. Not only can you repaint the objects that you find in each stage, but you can also build off of them or create and save your own entirely original works of art. Unfortunately, the controls in the creator mode leave much to be desired, but they are very effective in illustrating the difficulty of trying to create an object suspended in space. It’s not an easy system to work with and we found that, more often than not, tapping the space where we wanted a cube to go either resulted in nothing happening, or a block being placed a few spaces away from where it was intended. If the point of the creation too is to demonstrate the struggle that sculptors have in visualizing their creation in empty space, then Qbics Paint does an incredible job of conveying that frustration. The reality is that the creation process is infuriating and completely breaks you out of the laid-back atmosphere that the rest of the game provides.
Calling Qbics Paint a “game” isn’t entirely accurate, but at the same time it doesn't seem to care about fitting in. This was designed specifically to stand apart from the rest of the titles already available on the Switch eShop by offering a completely different type of experience. This isn't the kind of game that you're meant to get excited about and anticipate playing when you've been away from it, but it is the type of game that you may find yourself coming back to when you're looking to decompress. It's also worth mentioning that the vast majority of time we spent playing this, we actually used a capacitive stylus rather than our meaty fingers. Not only did using a peripheral increase accuracy, but adding a tool into the mix also lent itself to the idea of engaging in a relaxing creative pursuit rather than one that simply smudged the Switch's screen.
Not all games are designed to transport you to another world or keep you at the edge of your seat. Sometimes a game sets out to simply exist as an outlet for its players to relax and find comfort, which is exactly what Qbics Paint manages to excel at. It's tapping into the same market that adult colouring books recently cornered by providing a similar experience in a digital, and more portable environment. Life can be stressful, and sometimes you just need a way to unwind.