Copy Cat: A Painter's Puzzle
A lot of games cast you as a criminal. It's fun to flirt with the dark side, flaunting the rules, casting off the ethical concerns that imprison the weak and cowardly. You've been a sociopathic getaway driver in The Heist 2. A genocidal space squid in Parasite. A turtle mass murderer in Super Mario Bros. A megalomaniac in Mastermind: World Conqueror. Now. Prepare yourself to step into the nefarious shoes of a truly abominable villain: an art forger. DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUHNNN.
Armed with a bundle of stencils and an infinite amount of paint, your job in Mofongo Studios' new puzzle game Copy Cat: A Painter's Puzzle is to duplicate 30 colorful abstract paintings, and then, presumably, sell the forgeries on the black market and move to Bermuda. The original painting sits on the right, your blank canvas on the left. Your method, as the wasteful scofflaw that you are, is to cover up the bits you don't want to paint, and then throw a whole bucket of paint at the canvas. Don't worry, you probably spread plastic on the floor of your studio beforehand.
A progress bar at the top of the screen tells you what percentage of your forgery is accurate. Your goal is to push that number past the target mark, which varies depending on how finicky the current level is. Just use the mouse to drag as many stencils as you like from the menu at right onto your canvas, then click on the paint to glop it on. Stencils you don't need any more can go in the trash can.
Your first few forgeries will be simple collections of shapes, but by the end, you'll be dealing with deeply worrying art-tangles of half-shapes hidden behind other half-shapes. You only have access to the three primary colors of paint (plus white, which overrides any other color), but you'll learn to mix them together to produce orange, green, and... er... fuchsia. Combining all three primaries produces black. Here's where it gets strange: if you already have a secondary color, like orange, and you add one of its primary colors, like red, that part of the painting will turn back to red. Because you are using special, technologically advanced forgery paint.
Nearly as spiffy as your high-tech paint is the level editor, which lets you make tricky puzzles to stump your friends or, if you are very diabolical, pretty pictures that will really stump your friends. There's nothing like staring in defeated befuddlement at a cute little bunny to take an arrogant comrade down a peg.
Analysis: It may have a hifalutin theme and martini lounge background music, but Copy Cat gives you everything you want in a down-to-earth visual brainteaser. The little internal scream of disbelief when you see a complicated new level. The warm fuzzy prickle on the back of your neck when you finally put that impossible-looking kerfuffle in order.
Get it on your mobile device: Copy Cat for iOS
Unlike in many puzzle games, however, these solutions are not an exact science (because they're an art, natch). There is no reasonable way to put a stencil precisely where you need it, not without a lot of squinting and mouse fidgeting, so you have to settle for a picture that resembles the target without matching it exactly. The target percentage gives you some leeway, but it can actually work against you. Sometimes you'll get close to the solution without actually solving it, and the game will decide you're close enough and just end the level, leaving you to stare at your imperfect forgery like the sad little hack that you are. It's enough to give perfectionists fingernail scars in their palms.
Another issue is, ironically, the composition of the screen. You have to drag the stencils from the right side of the screen to the left side, past a trash can with a huge collision detection box. Expect to lose a few stencils to that hungry bin before you get used to dodging it.
What makes those nitpicks inconsequential, and in fact makes Copy Cat one of the most enjoyable Flash puzzlers around, is the pure ingenuity of the concept. Over the course of the entire game, I never did quite master the mental switcheroo needed to reverse engineer a painting in my head. Hitting a workable solution on the first shot requires a surprisingly intense level of concentration, although the solutions are always logical, and the difficulty level always stays in the realm of casual.
The other reward is in simply producing attractive pictures. Not every painting in the game is something you'd hang on your wall, but many have a simple, playful appeal that makes you want to reproduce them faithfully. It keeps your attention long past the point where you're learning new solving techniques.
It's a rare game that combines brains and beauty in such a unique and accessible way. I can recommend Copy Cat wholeheartedly, despite the minor interface clumsiness. After all, nobody ever said a life of crime would be easy.