Looking for the palettes in your eyes...
My personal experience with painting has overall been negative, because all I can usually think of is how much of a pain it's going to be to clean all of it up when I'm done. But through the magic of video games I can paint to my heart's content, and I don't have to scrub off a single drop! To sweeten the deal even further, Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery throws some genuinely impressive animation into the bundle, which is likely the first thing you'll notice when the game catches your eye. I originally played this game on PC earlier this year and when the Switch release finally dropped my first worry was how well it would translate to consoles, mainly the painting mechanic that felt as if it might be clunky on an analog stick as opposed to a mouse. Were my fears dissuaded or is this a hurdle those on the Switch will have to deal with?
In Behind the Frame the player takes the role of a young woman who spends her days painting by her window. Across the alley from her is an old man who is also a painter, as well as his rather chunky cat, and try as she might every day he never responds to her morning greetings. As she sits down to color her latest work, she realizes that she has lost her tubes of paint and must search her apartment in order to find them. What follows is a slightly fantastical journey through memory lane, and a peek into the woman's goals and aspirations, as well as a lot of making coffee and toast. As you look around the apartment you'll find various paintings that are missing an element, and using clues from elsewhere in the room you must fill in the missing part to reveal not only part of the story but also potentially open a new avenue of exploration.
Puzzles in Behind the Frame are incredibly simple, usually involving adding something that's missing to a painting on the wall, such as an umbrella or the sun. There are also puzzles involving using simple clues to press specific buttons on an item, or arrange paintings of events in chronological order. None of these puzzles are going to stump a majority of players, and some might even find themselves turned off by just how simple they are. However, despite this, each puzzle ties heavily into the narrative the game is trying to weave, making each one still feel relatively significant in the long run. There are also non-puzzle gameplay elements, namely sketching and painting. Both are rather simple, simply moving the cursor back and forth to fill in an image, with the painting itself having to match the sketch in the painter's notebook.
In terms of how Behind the Frame translates over to the Switch, there are actually two answers to that question. Playing docked or in handheld with the joycons to control the cursor works just fine when looking around the painter's apartment, but the instant you have to do anything with the painting or sketching you'll find that the movements are sluggish at best and jerky at worst. This was especially apparent in a late game puzzle involving connecting dots, which took me several attempts with the analog stick. On the flip side when playing in handheld you also have the option of playing with touch controls, and that is where the game works the best. Painting, moving, and selecting works perfectly, even more fluidly than with a mouse, and if you give this game a look on Switch I would definitely recommend this be the method with which you play.
While it may be a simple and incredibly short experience, able to be completed in roughly 45 minutes to an hour, Behind the Frame makes up for its lack of length with its gorgeous art and animation. Pair that with a fun strings-heavy soundtrack and a genuinely touching story, and it's hard for me not to call it a memorable experience. If you're a fan of Studio Ghibli, like these developers clearly are, or even just have an hour to kill and a love for art, Behind the Frame is absolutely a game you should give your time. It may be clunky if played on a gamepad, but playing with touch just feels natural and works with minimal issue. If this sounds up your alley, I'd say it's time to grab your paints and get to work.