This week’s Steam Next Fest, during which hundreds of in-development PC games released demos, features a game that really seems to care about how you’re doing just now. Please, Touch the Artwork is a puzzle adventure in which you’re allowed to prod at the paintings in an exhibition, and it picks the difficulty based on how much sleep you’ve had recently.
That’s just one of many things that stands out about this wonderfully peculiar puzzle game, in which you’re aiming to replicate Piet Mondrian-like artworks by way of deducing the game’s mechanics. Developers Studio Waterzooi deserve to be credited for each and every aspect of what they’ve put together here, and this is just the demo.
When you start the game you encounter a museum guard, stood outside the art exhibition in which the puzzles take place. You can chat with him for a bit, ask him questions about the art, his job, and—so wonderfully—questions like, “What’s an exhibition?” I know you most likely know what an exhibition is. I too was aware what an exhibition is. But this is a game that thought of the people who don’t.
Rather than replying with sarcasm, or shock at the lack of knowledge, instead he cries, “Great question!” before going on to briefly explain. The sheer, unfettered generosity of this blew me away.
Then comes the all-important question:
“How do you feel?”
The possible answers are:
Exhausted, can’t think anymore.
Tired but relaxed.
I feel fine.
I can take on the world!
Honestly, it just meant so much to be asked. Because goddamn, I’m tired. There was a covid outbreak at my kid’s school this week, we’ve had half the staff off at Kotaku so I’ve been doing double-shifts, I’ve got a head cold I can’t shake, my anxiety disorder has been really rough the last few days...seriously, game, thank you. I got to tell someone I was exhausted, and they didn’t reply, “Yeah, me too.”
Instead the guard asks if I prefer puzzles, story, or drawing, and then picks from its collection of puzzles based on my answers. Given that this is the demo, that’s a very limited selection, though there’s still a fair amount to do.
Rather importantly, the puzzles are good, too. They’re the sort where part of the game is figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing, so I won’t describe them here. But they’re intuitive, or at least can be intuited by trial and error. And once you’ve got the hang of them, they’re a satisfying collection to solve.
This needs to be the new normal. Forget “Easy,” “Normal,” and “Hard.” I want, “Exhausted,” “Tired,” “Rested,” and “Buzzing.” I want Far Cry 6 to scale down the numbers of enemies based on how many hours sleep I got last night. I want Metroid Dread to just have a screen that flashes up saying, “You look wiped, don’t worry about the next boss fight.”
You can play the Please, Touch the Artwork demo right now, but be quick, as lots of the Next Fest demos will disappear by Friday morning.