The most popular mobile games always seem to be the simplest. Angry Birds. Cut the Rope. Jetpack Joyride. Candy Crush Saga, to name but a few. They have been downloaded in their millions and are enjoyed the world over. Almost inevitably, however, they are also copy and pasted by just about every aspiring designer on the planet, and clones repeatedly clog up App Stores, drowning out most fresh releases before they’ve even had a chance to find their feet.

Watercolors is among the few that dares to be different and is a refreshing alternative that reminds us not every great idea has been used and abused.

watercolors1Similarly following a simplistic formula, the idea is to brush stroke a lick of paint into a glowing circle of an indicated color to complete each puzzle. You start with the three primary colors, red, blue and yellow, but in order to be a true artist, you’ll also need to combine the primary colors to create orange, green and purple.

The challenge becomes even more fiendish when you have to clear pathways for other colours to fill their glowing holes, and likewise when you need to use bridges so colors can cross one another without mixing.

This is the type of game that, on paper, sounds quite dull. But when you’re trying to strategically figure out how to beat the board in front of you, it comes alive like no other mobile puzzle release this year.

While the game starts simply, Watercolors becomes devilish as you progress through to the later stages. Solutions never stare you in the face, but you will soon realise where you made your mistakes the moment a pathway starts to become clear. Nothing is ever outrageous or seemingly impossible about the game, even if it seems like it when awatercolors2 pathway to victory doesn’t instantly present itself.

But the game doesn’t just want you to figure out its puzzles, it wants you to beat them in style. A familiar star-rating system is in place in Watercolors, awarding the player maximum score if they beat the puzzle with the smallest amount of moves possible. The more strokes it takes you to beat a puzzle, the lower your overall rating will be.

While Free Play serves as the game’s campaign, Time Trials is all about testing your reflexes and continually setting challenges for yourself and others. You have to beat as many puzzles as possible within thirty seconds, a minute, two minutes and four minutes. You can refresh a puzzle at any point, but the counter doesn’t stop ticking down. If you try to back out and start again, you’ll be faced with an all new puzzle as the game randomises the order you play each puzzle. The game will remember how well you’ve done, but disappointingly doesn’t offer a global leaderboard so you can compare with your friends and the rest of the world.

As for Free Play, there are a whopping 270 levels to get through. All packs are unlocked as you beat each set, unless you decide to purchase them ahead of schedule. Difficulty gradually mounts as you move through the level packs, though you will start finding difficulties very early on. Watercolor’s difficulty curve is harsh, and at times, unfair, but as long as you recognise that you’ll be facing challenges very early on, you’ll get on just fine with the end-product.

Amazingly, the app is completely free. Considering the amount of content you get for that, as well as the longevity the game offers – all without a single necessary microtransaction in sight – Watercolors is more than just a pretty sweet deal.

But perhaps the most incredible feature offered by Watercolors is that there’s a color-blind mode built into the package. That’s right: a game that requires you to mix colors and make patterns can even be played by someone who sees those patterns very differently from others. This really can be played and enjoyed by anyone.

Watercolors is a surprisingly beautiful and enchanting concoction that will continue to satisfy and delight long after you start playing. You’ve not got a lot to lose by giving it a try, considering it’s free, but you’ll stay for the deceptively fiendish puzzle-solving and the insatiable need for perfectionism on each and every one of its 270 levels.