Right from the get-go, I’m chickening out of a score for Art Sqool Switch. First off, it wasn’t as expected, but more importantly, it’s quite a tricky thing to score as it’s pretty darn unique.
Using this hall pass/rain check/get out of jail free card, the review will be treated the same as all the others, but this game from RedDeer Games and 3D artist Julian Glander has caught me off guard.
It’s essentially an art package with traditional interactive elements in-between. You’ll be set objectives and carry those out by illustrating on your digital sketchpad, then assessed by an art professor.
Art Sqool Switch Review
In the game, you play art student Froshmin – a Seasame Street-like character that’s quite generic but cute enough – if you want a cute little mascot to represent you in this creative realm.
The story element comes from the professor, Qwertz. They are the game’s driving force; otherwise, it would be a pretty barren open world. Barren in the sense of ‘not much to interactive with’. As for the actual landscapes, they’re pretty nice.
Considering that the game creator is a 3D artist, you can see that they went all out on all possible shapes planted into the environment. However, these aren’t texture filled assets, just simple colours. I liked the aesthetic though.
Qwertz job is to provide these challenges, which are more effective exercises to be creative. As someone who has experimented with art all their life, I get these tasks as I’ve experienced similar – both in drawing and similar writing exercises.
That fundamental creative task is brilliant if you’re non-censoring and forget yourself. No artist blames their tools, but Art Sqool Switch is incredibly restrictive, as drawing with the joy-cons is impractical.
For years, I’ve always had a strong opinion that everyone can draw. Art is open to interpretation, and if you are tasked with drawing a ball, it can take many forms – it may even end up as a cuboid. The point is, communicating your ideas without restraint.
With the toolset in Art Sqool, you just can’t do that. It’s like MS Paint but drawing with a broken mouse (and fingers). Forget about all the drift issues that plague the joy-cons – even straight out of the box; you’ll be hard-pressed to draw with the sticks.
Though I have digital pens and drawing tablets, I find that drawing with a mouse isn’t as hard as people make out, but boy is it needed here. After numerous attempts at playing in docked mode, I abandoned it, favouring handheld using the touchscreen.
Screen Real Estate
Fortunately, Art Sqool has the touchscreen enabled, and while it does take some getting used to, it’s significantly better than the joy-cons or Pro Controller. The problem now is the size of the screen.
We play quite a few party games on the Switch in our household – the type of games where everyone uses a mobile or tablet to connect. One favourite is Drawful 2. With only two colours and zero tools, it’s fun as you’re playing together and intrigued about what the other players have created.
One of the restrictions that make Drawful 2 frustrating is running out of screen, but as it’s a fast-paced game and a party one at that, you accept it for what it is. Art Sqool could perhaps have benefited from multiplayer options because, well, it isn’t fun.
Again, it’s easy to blame your tools. In the opening part of the game, the first task is to draw three things that are opposite of one another. This was my immediate hurdle as shy of ‘big and small’, I was recalling my days at primary school, then drawing stickmen equivalents.
Mona Lisa’s Smile
There’s no doubt that there will be folk out there that can recreate the Mona Lisa or Shelf Life to pixel perfection, but for me, I’d rather give this a go on PC for the control element, but then again, even with the tools required, it’s not what I had hoped.
Ignoring all the drawing elements, you can move Froshmin on command and explore his 3D world. Other than objectives, Art Sqool doesn’t tell you what to do. There aren’t any time limits or other nonsense to make this stressful.
However, it’s best to explore as swiftly as possible. Scattered around are numerous tools and colours, so the more you collect, the more options you have. You can pick up a new colour from the outset, then stray for a minute or two and then pick up a new brush.
Aside from the unlocks and visuals, there’s a supposedly chilled score that plays throughout. I noted from the beginning that there was a dedicated button to switch off the music. Why would I do that? Ah, yes… I ended up muting it and listening to my own as it didn’t suit the experience, in my opinion.
Art Sqool Switch Review Summary
Art Sqool feels more like a work in progress with an emphasis on experimental, but not in the art sense. If this were an Early Access, it would make sense. Despite my revived interest in drawing at the moment, I’d prefer to do Qwertz’s challenges with pen and paper. Or if colouring, RedDeer’s other game Comic Coloring Book. But remember, art is subjective. You may like it.