Review: Canvas Colors: In the Moving City

Review: Canvas Colors: In the Moving City

UnfinishedCircl brings us the NaNoRenO 2021 entry Canvas Colors: In the Moving City. Follow postman Maggie and her traveling companion Vale as the execution of their duties brings them upon an interesting surprise. What’s so special about the resident of the house with the lion flag, and why are they in the position they’re currently in? Only a quick trip across the countryside will answer.

A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.

The art comes in soft and gentle with a lovely painterly effect reminiscent of gouache on canvas. The colors are earthy and warm without feeling flat. The outside scenes have a sense of radiance while the interiors feel homey and comforting. The character designs are delightful and the inclusion of small glimpses of the general townsfolk gives a little more depth and breadth to the world at large. Scene cut-ins appear during a few particularly high-dramatic or comedic moments that, while not full CGs, combine with the sprites and background scenery for a little burst of visual intrigue as well as creating a sense of general physicality when needed.

It does feel like they may have back-loaded the game a little bit as far as implementing a more kinetic energy. There are some sections at the beginning, in particular, where despite the occasional cut-in, things still feel a bit stagnant. There aren’t a lot of expression changes. The background doesn’t change. There’s only one sprite on screen. Altogether, it struggles to maintain visual interest at the beginning. This shifts as the game moves a little further in, though, when the game introduces a second sprite and we start moving out of the city across the countryside. The overall aesthetic feel, including the UI, is stunning with a storybook or fairy tale quality.

The story being told is a very much a slice-of-life tale. It’s slow, it’s very character-centric, and not a lot really happens. If that style of storytelling isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll unfortunately likely find it hard to keep interest in this one. The writing itself, however, is very charming and light with a lot of really great character interactions. The point of view moves between Maggie and Vane a little and approaches it from a third-person perspective. This leans into that storybook feel. It’s also an excellent example of an organic, show-don’t-tell worldbuilding approach. It doesn’t linger on long explanations, letting the reader experience the world as it’s happening.

Some elements of the story and world, however, do open without ever really closing properly. Much of this is simply part of the slice-of-life aspect, but I think also accidentally sets up a slightly different expectation of the story at first. It feels like the city itself is going to play a bigger part as its own character, for example, so then as the story shifts in focus, it feels a little strange that you’ve spent so long there already. In the end, though, it all really comes together cohesively. The stage is set at the beginning properly for how things unfold at the end in a more vague and nuanced way. What you’re left with is an intimate, genuinely heartfelt piece of interactive fiction that transcends its ostensibly fantasy setting.

Canvas Colors: In the Moving City opens as a story about a postman going about her job, and ends as a story of identity, family, and figuring out where you belong in the big wide world around you. It’s fun and light and earnest. It’s a wonderful short read for the slice-of-life lover and an exquisite snapshot of an otherworldly life.

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