The concept of ‘Games as art’ is nothing new and in some cases these games are incredibly brilliant. But what about games that include art? Unfinished Swan is a game that mixes art with gameplay and does it really well. Other games opt to teach you how to draw and paint using controllers or touchpads, like Pokemon Art Academy. Canvaleon, on the other hand, attempts to combine a variety of game genres all while using art.
In its simplest form Canvaleon follows the adventure of an albino chameleon (Canvas) who is forced to save a colony of other chameleons from alien invaders. Being a chameleon and all, he’s not very equipped to fight the aliens head-on. Instead, he ops to out-smart and out-sneak them, by painting on his white canvas-like body to match the colourful and beautiful background.
Painting Is Not For Amateurs
By using paint, Canvas can blend in with the environment and sneak past enemies to rescue his friends. Now, while this is one of the main points in the game, it’s also its greatest undoing.
The game itself is a very difficult platformer with levels that are designed to get you killed. It’s not easy and you can expect to die A LOT. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve died. One of the main reasons behind all the dying is the “stealth-camo-paint mash” up. I must add that the cutesy cartoon-like world is wonderful and artfully created, and almost perfectly juxtaposes the insane and unforgivable difficulty of the game.
During your travels, you can catch little butterflies that are used to make colour paint. When you have enough paint, you can create your own disguise. Using the Wii U’s gamepad, you can custom make your own camouflage. It’s easy to do and it’s a great use of the pad, but unless you’re really good at painting, you’re really going to struggle coming up with a good enough disguise to fool certain enemies. Before you tackle a stage you need to select four different canvases to take with you. When you use them in the field, you use up a little bit of paint, which you need to refill from time to time.
From personal experience, you need, at the very least, a stealth-camo rating of 70% and above to remain safely undetected, and a lot higher if you want to move while in stealth mode. This is not easy if you’re not good at drawing, and the pre-set camo options don’t really help. If you can magically get a certain disguise right, that takes care of one frustrating aspect of the game.
Running Around Ain’t Easy Either
As I’ve mentioned before, the levels are designed (on purpose or not) to be deadly. Pitfalls, lava, hidden spikes, underground enemies and enemies placed at the most inconvenient locations – this game has it all. To top it all off the whole point is to remain undetected, so, if you’re detected you get REALLY punished.
Not only will you be treated to a frantic “alert” mode but aliens will teleport from the Mother Ship and remain in the area until you either out-stealth them, or, more likely, die. There are a variety of enemies, each with a specific purpose. The first are these little white blobs that squeal when they see you, they’re not offensive, but they can alert others to your presence. The second is an alien that absorbs your paint and makes it much harder to remain undetected. Then there are these floating guys that always seem to see through anything, these incredibly blind aliens that remind me of nuts, and a red alien that can shoot you with a one-hit-kill laser.
Despite its incredible difficulty, the controls are pretty easy to master, but figuring out the levels is that hard part. A lot of patience is required to finish a simple level, yet, for a game that’s based on stealth, it has pretty high standards when it comes to completion time. If you manage to finish a stage, you get scored on your attempt. You get points for saving the really well-hidden chameleon, remaining undetected, defeating enemies and how long it took you to finish.
Now, as much as I love stealth, I certainly don’t like it when I’m told to be sneaky and fast. It’s two things that seldom mix. Once you finish a certain area of the game, like the forest area or the desert area, you must defeat a boss. This is the only time the game is incredibly easy. Once you beat the boss you’ll be given a new ability, like double jumping, swinging, sticking your tongue out further and stunning enemies. Unlocking each new ability makes the game slightly easier. This makes the start of the game really tough and much easier to deal with closer to the end.
Ultimately, Canvaleon is a very tough game, so difficult that whatever fun you’re supposed to have, is replaced with hatred and frustration. It’s too difficult for its own good and doesn’t really take into consideration that a relatively high art skill is required to succeed. It’s not a game for the average gamer and unless you can draw/ paint, I don’t think you’ll find this very enjoyable. I certainly did not.