Let’s face it: at some point, every gamer has been caught off guard by the alluring retro beauty of pixel art. Say what you will about its overuse in today’s onslaught of independent games — chances are you still love it. There’s something majestic about the way tens, hundreds, or thousands of tiny dots come together to form a piece of art, and Two Kernel Connection knows it. The studio's new application, Pixel Paint, claims to offer a simple solution to all of your pixel-producing problems using the Wii U GamePad. It largely succeeds in that endeavour thanks to a simple interface, a healthy number of useful tools, and a fantastic budget price point; this little application is a no-brainer for anyone interested in making some pixelated masterpieces.
The user interface in Pixel Paint is easily one of the application's best assets; anyone who's used any sort of image-editing software (and even those that haven't) will be able to navigate the menus and start drawing straight away. There are six canvas sizes offered, ranging from "extra small" to "gigantic." It's a bit of a shame creators don't have the option to pick their own dimensions or view measurements on the side of the canvas, but that's hardly a major complaint — especially when you consider the 8 colour palettes this offers, ranging from the greenish-gray charm of the original Game Boy to the classic 8-bit NES selection to full-on true colour. These can be really helpful for artists wanting to keep their creations authentic, and it's a ton of fun to attempt a design using the limited palettes of yesteryear.
In addition, fill, replace, copy, and cut tools make moving or duplicating your efforts a snap, and every canvas size allows players to zoom in to a super-helpful grid for fine detail. Best of all, there's a zoomed-out view of your finished product both on the television and in the corner of the GamePad screen that will give you the best idea of how things are coming along in the art's true resolution. Just about everything you could want for the artistic process is here and accounted for, and using the stylus really is easier than a lot of tablet-based or mouse-based options out there.
The only major problem with the software is its limited capability to get art off the Wii U and into a usable form elsewhere; while Two Kernel Connection has promised such a feature in the first update, it's currently only capable of exporting art to Miiverse. It would also be great to see some Art Academy-style tutorials offered in the future, as newcomers to pixel art are unlikely to learn much within the current package.
Pixel Paint is an immensely useful tool for creating pixel art on Wii U. A streamlined interface ensures even the most uncoordinated newcomer can find their way around the application, while a set of useful tools — including some nostalgia-inducing colour palettes — will make expert pixel manipulators giddy. The package could be perceived as a bit bare-bones due to its currently limited exporting capability and a lack of tutorials, but what's on offer is more than enough to satisfy your retro cravings.