]Paint It Back is the debut title from Casual Labs, a small game development studio based in St. Louis, Missouri. Casual Labs is a one man army consisting of Edward Brown. From the news updates on the Casual Labs website to the game's design, it would seem that Edward Brown did it all. My appreciation for Edward Brown skyrocketed upon finding how intricate his puzzles were in Paint It Back. When a devious ghost turned every fantastic painting in your museum to a blank canvas, who ya gonna call?

Regardless of its premise, Paint It Back is an iOS puzzle game that revolves around strategically eliminating numbers. Like Sudoku, Kendoku, Kankuro and Futoshiki, Paint It Back is a numerical, grid-based puzzler. You are able to place two different marks on the grid, a paint mark or an X. The X has no real use, it's just there to help you eliminate red herrings/mark empty spots among the grid so you can help yourself figure out which squares get painted and which are meant to stay empty.

The goal of Paint It Back is get the perfect match of painted squares both horizontally and vertically, in order to adhere to the limits set by the perimeter squares. For example, a row with a five next to it would have have five squares painted. If there are only five squares in that row, voila! You don't have to worry about it ever again. This helps you look at the vertical columns, where the same rules apply. If you would look at the picture above, the 5 painted boxes across already fulfills the first and last vertical columns. So you may put X's in the empty spots of those finished columns so they can help you focus in on the others.

While this premise seems simple at first, it becomes tricky after a few pictures/rounds. For example, the 1-1 bottom row means that somewhere in that row, must be a sequence of "painted-empty-painted", in that order. The previously-filled vertical columns (the first and last with a requirement of 1), narrowed it down so that the painted-empty-painted sequence goes directly in the middle. Again, this helps breakdown the rest of the puzzle as we are slowly filling the gaps (in terms of paint or X's), and starts breaking down the other lines.

While Paint It Back's premise is simple on the initial levels (the Farmer Joe puzzle is one of the earlier stages), the canvases will eventually get bigger and bigger, resulting in insanely challenging brain teasers which you must not hastily approach. Imagine a 15x15 grid and how difficult that would be. Now imagine a large canvas consisting of four 5x5 grids, all adjacent to each other. Now Imagine four 15x15 puzzles atop of the same canvas. Remember the alternating "1-1" pattern? Stretch that out to two shaded, two unshaded, two shaded (2-2), and just let your imagination run wild in terms of how many insanely difficult challenges Paint It Back could potentially offer.

Ultimately, Paint It Back is a traditional, brain-teasing puzzler that most people can enjoy. It's simple enough that even children can figure it out on the lowest levels, but can be varied and expanded upon to the point where you need a genius to solve it. The first three clusters of levels are free. Unfortunately, the more advanced puzzles are a form of freemium content. Given that this was primarily a solo effort by a single developer, my admiration for Edward Brown's ingenuity and cleverness for making such a solid, yet simple puzzle game expands, much like the canvases in Paint It Back.


App Store Link: Paint it Back for iPhone iPad | By Casual Labs LLC | Price: Free | Version: 1.0 | 48.0 MB | Rating: 4+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating