Coloring Book

Played on: Nintendo Switch, via eshop

A bare-bones coloring book app that’s worth its asking price

Rainbow Connection

This review is challenging for a couple of reasons:

Bearing that in mind, let’s see if there’s anything notable about Coloring Book.

In touch screen mode, controls are ever-present and far superior to those offered in docked mode

She’s Lost Control

The first thing you’ll no doubt be wondering is how well the controls work in a coloring ‘game’. Coloring Book takes the very wise decision to offer both joycon and touch controls, as anyone would expect and hope for. However, it’s not exactly as straightforward as all that.

When docked, the app can only be controlled using joycons, so put that pro controller to one side. Moreover, each joycon is for a separate ‘player’ (game-centric language really doesn’t work here, does it?!) so a solo artist must control everything with a single joycon.

The touch-screen experience is, of course, the superior one, and it’s more-or-less up to scratch, barring a couple of issues which I’ll cover shortly.

An example of the nine initial colors and brushes that are available

Paint It, Black

The main action involves selecting a brush, a color, and applying the latter with the former. This is where joycon controls make things awkward: the UI elements appear when the appropriate button is pressed, but they appear relative to the cursor (paintbrush) which means they’re off the screen a lot of the time. To use them properly, you’ll need to manually move the cursor into the middle of the screen each time, which gets old pretty quick..

Bugs aside, the default set of colors and brushes is reasonable enough to work with. We’ve got a rainbow-plus-brown palette, and standard tools including a paintbrush, flood-fill, and spray can. Bizarrely, the option to undo a move — surely an absolute necessity — is only available in touch mode. Even stranger, there’s an expanded color palette of almost 80 colors … in touch mode. Presumably, non-touch mode is bolted on only because it has to be, and the developer didn’t choose to invest any time in it at all.

One of the tools is a nice ‘keep inside the lines’ piece of magic. This is wisely included, since — along with undo — it’s one of the few real advantages a digital coloring book can offer. But it’s not really that different from the flood-fill tool, and most of the other brushes are either boring or not very useful.

Pictures Of You

In this free version, there are just a couple of pictures available to color: a jungle scene, and a space-based set-piece. Additional drawings are available as paid DLC — this is the entire reason this app is available for free, after all.

When you choose a picture to color, you actually then select one part of the larger image at a time; the example I tried was divided into six smaller pieces. This is by far the most interesting aspect of Coloring Book, although I’m unsure whether it was really intentional or if the developer just went that way because they didn’t want to implement a zoom (btw, there’s no zoom).

But this approach does mean coloring separate images, then seeing them joined together as a whole, and that can make for quite a humorous/interesting result. If you actually take your time and plan things, I’m sure it’s possible to ensure the image matches up correctly, but you can’t copy+paste colors, so trial and error or strict adherence to the basic color set will help.

The final unholy mess result.

Colour Me In

In conclusion, there’s a reason Coloring Book is free, and that’s to sell DLC. But the two included pictures, open-ended ‘whiteboard’ mode, and two-player tabletop mode should offer young colourists a brief diversion, so long as they’re patient enough to grapple with the awkward controls.