Plenty of games let you flex your creative muscles. Build yourself an architectural triumph in Minecraft. Get inside the genome and cultivate alien life in Spore. The options are out there. But what if it’s just you, a blank canvas, and this month’s rent?
Passpartout: The Starving Artist is a developed prototype created by Swedish developers Flamebait games, and it aims to answer that question.
The game is pretty simple, honestly. You’re dropped into a grotty Parisian alley and have to make yourself at home in a humble garage. Your canvas and bed are there, and a small table is set up outside for you to display your craft.
The punters walk by listlessly, lamenting each piece with cynicism or lapping it up if it fits their acute taste.
Immediately you’ll realise the problem that the game wishes for you to address. The size of the canvas is limited, as are the colours and tools. You’ve got MS Paint and Benjamin the critic wants a Picasso.
Further, you don’t have the time to really get to grips with the fabric, because if you don’t churn out something viable then the bills will rack up and you’ll be broke. How will you afford the baguettes that keep you from starvation?
This provides a number of quite potent questions. Do you rush a bunch of bright, minimalist bullshit to make the Punks pay, or spend time on an expressionist representation of Passover for the cap-toting art snobs?
What I found most compelling about Passpartout is the completely remarkable way in which the game judges your art.
Of course, at first I delved into a bunch of absurd bullshit to test the waters, but it’s interesting to take stock and think about which squares gave me my wine money.
The game is deceptive in the way with which it makes you feel like you’re carving out an artistic niche, but once the layers unravel you begin to understand that you’re throwing your paint at the wall to see what sticks. The critics like what they like, so you can’t really keep doing your own thing if it’s in between the needs of your punters. You need to make money, after all.
Case in point, the delightful picture of the cat up there on the left. You see that sweet little boy? I played this game for three hours, and he was the third painting I mustered. Nobody even made a 5 euro offer. Shocking behaviour, as I think it’s quite an endearing little piece.
The thing is, once you get to the point where you can push against the boundaries of the game, you start seeing the cracks and it becomes more like Diner Dash for artists. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you.
It was very fun to try and work out which paintings certain sects of society would enjoy. My daft cat was something nobody wanted, but this abominable painting above that I titled ‘Disney Sauce’ sold for something in the range of 53 euro.
Whilst it was frustrating to see the art that I didn’t care for or rushed out sell for an alarming amount of money, it taught me a valuable lesson about expression. No matter how bold or magnificent something looks in your head, the wider public may not think so, and those guys hold the cards (and the money) important to your survival.
Further, it made me think that even if you draw anything and you think it’s dumb, show somebody? Maybe they’ll love it!
I tried to be overtly pretentious and draw the word ‘Frog’ as a painting with each of the letters combining into one piece. As you can imagine, this may have been a bridge too far, so I returned to drawing Bartman and raking in the dough.
I figured out that the art critics with their flat caps and their waistcoats like little stick dudes in the bottom right and really terrible, oppressive forces on the rest of the canvas. Here’s a little guy shouting the word Bone at a Meteor. Quit judging me this one sold!
For the critics, my most lucrative piece…
I called it ‘le petit mort’ and received 84 euros. Not exactly something I would hang on my wall. Whilst I still preferred my lonely cat, I started to discover a happy medium that wasn’t so minimalist.
You can see my niche forming in the far left image, which looks like Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas Devours the World.
After a few hours of testing the waters, I still found myself enamoured by the algorithms and the cogs behind the games judgment system. So much so that I wanted to keep drawing and earning in hopes of a brighter future for this little green man.
If you’re looking for a compelling little indie title to flex your creativity with, look no further than Passpartout. I’m sure I’ll be returning in the near future to take the art world by storm with my anthropomorphic construction tools.
I’ll leave you with my final two deeply affecting Magnum Opi, Jackhammer Jill and 2GUDWOOFERS.
This copy of Passpartout: The Starving Artist was provided by Flamebait Games. OurEditor-In-Chief Jordan Oloman spent 4 hours attempting to break into the harsh world of art.
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