But to Paint a Universe

Developer – Mårten Jonsson
Publisher – Mårten Jonsson
Platform – PC, iOS

The tile-matching puzzle game, But to Paint a Universe, is great for people who love to play games like Bejeweled. Although problematic at times, the puzzles are challenging and engaging, which makes for an overall fun game to play for its $9 price tag.

By far, the music and art for this game are what stand out the most. In fact, I would argue that they are the main draw. Illustrator Agnes Forsell’s artwork is simply stunning to view. Every time I saw a new background, I gasped inwardly and marveled at the beauty for a bit before I even began to play. Each background is composed of dark and cool colors while little bits of lighter, pastel colors prick the sky.

The music is beautiful as well and really sets the mood. It goes well with the art and creates a peaceful and wondering atmosphere that contributes nicely to the game. The music does get a bit repetitive if you ever get stuck replaying the same puzzle over and over again, but even then I still find it enjoyable enough to not be bothered.

With the combination of beautiful art and music, I was sold after watching the prologue video (visible below), which creator Mårten Jonsson released online months before the game’s release:

After the intro video in Adventure mode, the player has to solve puzzles of increasing difficulty in an effort to restore color to the sky. (The color was stolen by a shadowy monster with no apparent motivation.) Having a storyline to back the traditional tile-matching puzzle gameplay was a nice touch, but the developers never really did much with it. Pokemon Puzzle League did a much better job of adding a storyline. As I was playing But to Paint a Universe, I never got a firm sense that what I was doing was having an effect on the sky. This could easily be fixed by the simple inclusion of a picture that shows the night sky gradually filling up as the player completes more puzzles. As it is, the story was nothing more than a nice fairy tale intro and a short conclusion at the end.

Bonus Stage

After every four puzzles, there is a bonus stage in which players must find ten circles in the night sky and click on them to fill them with color (presumably this is where you fulfill your mission). I don’t know if it was just me, but I had more trouble with these stages than I did with most of the puzzles. It always took a while to find that last circle.

The basic gameplay goes like this: for each “area” (puzzle), you have a set number of clicks that you are allowed to make and you must put matching colors into specific circles in order to clear them out and complete the area. Only once you have completed every puzzle can you play the finale. With each new area, there’s something different about the puzzle. Sometimes a color is added; sometimes the way the circles fall changes; sometimes you get special circles that do something unique – for example, pushing all tiles in its row to the right and left.

It’s this variety in the puzzles that makes the game both challenging and interesting to play. With every new area, there’s a new strategy that you have to form in order to successfully solve the puzzle. This, to me, is much more interesting than simply time- or score-based puzzle games. (Although if that’s your cup of tea, don’t worry – But to Paint a Universe has a Time Attack mode as well, with similar varieties to the puzzles.)

Area Puzzle

The game is not without its flaws. I realize that the developers are from Sweden, but the English subtitles and directions for the game are riddled with typos and incorrect verb tenses. This is enough to bother me and make me think that the developers were unprofessional. Or else the English version was hurriedly slapped together. On a similar note, alt-tabbing for this game didn’t work very well for me. Unless I was on the main menu, alt-tabbing usually resulted in my returning to the game with an invisible cursor, which, as you can imagine, made it impossible to continue and so I’d have to restart the game. This was frustrating to deal with.

In the end, the game is very enjoyable for one play through, but isn’t compelling enough (to me) to have much replay value. Perhaps if I’d gotten it for iOS I could see myself playing it as a time-killer, but since I have it for PC, there are other games I’d enjoy playing more.

Rating: 3/5