Please, Touch The Artwork returns with a free, hour-long hidden object puzzler through art history

Modern art puzzler Please, Touch The Artwork was a bit of a surprise hit when it came out in 2022. It not only poked fun at the reverential distance enforced on us by stuffy old art galleries, but it also invited us to recreate abstract modern masterworks by clicking, tracing and generally getting up close and personal with them with our big, colourful in-game fingers. Now, solo developer Thomas Waterzooi is back with Please, Touch The Artwork 2, which takes us on a slightly different journey through the art world as a hidden object point and click game. It’s out today, is completely free, and was made to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the death of the Belgian expressionist and surrealist painter James Ensor.

In this comic and delightful puzzle game, you guide a besuited black and white, recently-risen-from-the-grave skeleton through an array of Ensor’s artworks. Within them, you’ll encounter several strange and eclectic individuals who are all searching for something – a patron at a seaside bar might want ten bottles of wine, for example, while a cigarette-smoking duck on a table of cooking ingredients is after 24 matches. What for? Who can say. The duck in particular has a very messy and unceremonious end, and don’t even get me started on the bedridden bloke who wants 12 crucifixes. Whatever the task is, though, it’s up to you to use your beady eyes to spot them within the surrounding paintings and bring them to the appropriate character.

A skeleton walks on a rooftop next to an old woman collecting cats in a painting in Please, Touch The Artwork 2

A skeleton walks through a still life painting of vegetables in Please, Touch The Artwork 2

A skeleton stands next to a duck smoking a cigarette in a still life painting in Please, Touch The Artwork 2

A skeleton stands on a platform above a crowded street scene painting in Please, Touch The Artwork 2

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Thomas Waterzooi

What I particularly like about Please, Touch The Artwork 2 (aside from the lilting piano renditions of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No.s 1 and 3, Debussy’s Clair de Lune and other classical pieces of music) is your big giant skeleton hand doing all the pointing and clicking. As you move your hand around the scene, your ulna and radius bones just go on for days – or rather get replicated in stupidly long chains as you wiggle and stretch to reach different corners. The painting characters themselves are also stuffed with daft, wry touches that give a real sense of life and personality to them – like the family of stingrays you reunite among plates of still life food, and the grotesque wedding paintings where vomiting business men lurch over tables while waiters with platters of skulls and living human heads weave through the various tables.

A hatted man tears a hole in a canvas to escape in Please, Touch The Artwork 2
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Thomas Waterzooi

Each tableau is packed with amusing little details, encouraging you to scour each and every pixellated brush stroke to find what you’re looking for. Some objects, like the wood planks, you can easily spot a mile off. But others require much closer scrutiny, such as the matchsticks that may or may not be hidden inside a stone statue’s towelled arse crack, or the cats that stretch, claw and lounge around on city rooftops. It’s really quite lovely stuff, and I was almost a bit sad when I have to move on to a different set of scenes. I could have happily stayed noodling about in its busy cityscape for a lot longer.

To help carry you through, there’s a hatted man you’re chasing (well, lightly pursuing) across its five different worlds. This cheeky chap keeps cutting holes in the canvas to escape, and you’ll need to repair each tear before you can move on. These initiate dedicated puzzle screens involving some lightly taxing join-the-dots-style exercise where you have to bandage up the canvas in one continuous motion with no breaks or wasted repair roll. There’s also a dedicated spot-the-difference puzzle at one point, where you survey an enormous beach scene of bare-bottomed bathers (see below, top right).

A skeleton walks through a crowded wedding scene painting in Please, Touch The Artwork 2

A spot the difference puzzle of a beach painting in Please, Touch The Artwork 2

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Thomas Waterzooi

A skeleton stands in an artist's studio in Please, Touch The Artwork 2
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Thomas Waterzooi

It all leads up to the skeleton arriving back at his own art studio, and it’s a truly lovely way to spend an hour or so (and arguably a much more enjoyable way of experiencing Ensor’s paintings for the first time than perhaps you’d get going round an actual art gallery). I certainly wasn’t aware of Ensor before playing Please, Touch The Artwork 2, but it’s compelled me to find out more about him (such as this 2016 profile on him by the Royal Academy) as a result. It’s also reminded me that I should go back and revisit the original Please, Touch The Artwork on Steam, too, as I never quite finished it.

As mentioned up the top, Please, Touch The Artwork 2 is completely free to play, and arrives on Steam later today. Do give it a prod when you’ve got a spare moment (and if you’d like further arty recommendations for puzzley video games, do also check out Joe Richardson’s The Procession To Calvary and Four Last Things while you’re at it).

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