Please, Touch The Artwork 2

Oh yes, finally!
Not “oh yes, finally I can touch a piece of artwork,” but rather “oh yes, finally a video game that truly moved me!”

Please Touch The Artwork 2 - Masks Confronting Death + Skeletons Fighting Over a Pickled Herring

Today, I have the honor of presenting to you a video game that I would call a work of art within the artwork, released on February 19, 2024, for PC, and I’m talking about Please, Touch the Artwork 2, the second chapter of Please, Touch the Artwork.

Please, Touch the Artwork 2 is a brief yet intense title, developed by the solo developer Thomas Waterzooi in honor and in memory of the Belgian artist James Ensor.

We are facing a genre that certainly penalizes those who prefer a gameplay made of combats or virtuous and acrobatic actions, but that drives those who, like me, love a genre more focused on the artistic aspect, crazy with joy.

And with Waterzooi, we savor, enjoy, and treasure art in large quantities. Please, Touch the Artwork is an educational experience, in every sense. But let’s proceed in order.

Please, Touch the Artwork

The first chapter of what we hope will be many others, released on November 12, 2020, for PC and Nintendo Switch, was the beginning of an idea, which in my opinion, was truly brilliant.

Not everyone has an interest in art, and many mistakenly think that it can be something boring or too difficult to understand. Waterzooi found an intelligent way, but above all masterfully realized, to explain art, through a video game.

In this first chapter, the artist presented to us is Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter, one of the founders of neoplasticism (De Stijl). Not by chance, one of the sections of the game is De Stijl, while the other two are Boogie Woogie and New York City. These sections are galleries, and in each one, there are three different types of puzzles.

Mondrian is not an easy artist, but Waterzooi leads us, through the gaming experience, to understand certain mechanics and reasoning behind the thoughts of this immense, iconic, and complex painter.

The reasoning behind his pictorial expression, Waterzooi lets us slightly touch upon, describing and then making us understand through the puzzles, which are a sort of mental exercises, ideas such as the complementarity of colors, the concept of fullness and emptiness, of points, of lines. All to achieve a harmony that one cannot help but understand and love.

Waterzooi has really done an excellent job with this first title, but with Please, Touch the Artwork 2, he has truly outdone himself.

Thomas Waterzooi

Before discussing his magnum opus, I would like to briefly dwell on this magnificent author from Brussels, who deserves all the possible respect and esteem.

Waterzooi became an independent developer in 2018, but previously worked as a director on other video games such as Divinity Original Sin, Baldur’s Gate, and Hitman. He then embarked on this path where art, culture, and human interest are the absolute protagonists of his stories.

Thomas Waterzooi

He has received several international awards and nominations such as the Google Play Indie award 2022, the nomination for the Apple Design Award, 2 Belgian Game Awards, and a Best Art award at the Tokyo Game Show. Please, Touch The Artwork was also included in the “best of 2022” lists by The Guardian and Eurogamer. Deservedly, I would add.

The style of his video games falls into the category of “wholesome” or “cozy,” and they are indeed relaxing and reflective experiences, not only because of the type of gameplay but also because of the atmospheres created, thanks to the music and various aesthetic choices.

A New Way of Making Art

Creating art and at the same time teaching art is the concept behind Please, Touch The Artwork 2, a hidden object adventure set in the paintings of James Ensor.

Waterzooi guides us through a virtual museum, where different galleries tell us a story. A story created through the works of James Ensor. Waterzooi has taken a character, literally detaching him from his canvas (“The Intrigue” by Ensor), and thus from his world, and set him free to roam among the works, tearing canvases and making fun of us who are enjoying the tour.

James Ensor The Intrigue

We players embody a figure halfway between a man and a skeleton (a zombie? Lol), with a calm demeanor, wearing elegant early 20th-century attire and two brushes in the pocket. This character, initially appearing to be a simple spectator, wanders among the works, enters them until his existence merges with that of the paintings and what is represented therein.

We immediately understand that this figure represents Ensor himself, who begins his journey emerging from his tomb. The character is depicted in 2D, with simple outline lines and completely white. An absolutely intelligent choice, given that he will find himself immersed from the outset in the vivid colors and the wealth of details of the numerous works present.

Please Touch The Artwork 2 - View Of Mariakerke

The game is essentially based on two types of very simple and relaxing puzzles: finding hidden objects and, from time to time, repairing canvases, which must be done by following lines to reproduce a figure without interruption.

Apart from restoring the canvases, finding objects is the true heart and the absolutely brilliant idea behind this experience. Searching meticulously for hidden objects and being forced, in a way, to examine every single detail of a scene, completely immerses us in the painting.

Thanks to this careful observation, we can discern details, narrative threads, and technicalities of the painting, initially capturing its aesthetics.

But Waterzooi takes us to various levels of interpretation of the work, inserting a new narrative that serves as a guiding thread. His new narrative, used as a ploy to allow us an exploratory journey through Ensor’s entire production, has comic and grotesque traits, characteristics quite suitable for the expression of the Belgian artist.

Finally, Waterzooi manages to let us savor the magic of contemplation. Thanks to the right timing, the right music, and the right dynamics, we find ourselves completely immersed in a parallel world, almost like in a psychedelic journey, absolutely entertaining.

Once you’ve played Please, Touch The Artwork 2, you fall in love at least twice: once with Waterzooi and once with Ensor.

James Ensor

Who was James Ensor?

James Sidney Edouard was a Baron, of Ensor, born in Ostend on April 13, 1860, and died in Ostend on November 19, 1949.

James Ensor

He practically lived between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, experiencing both the period of pictorial transformation begun with the Impressionists and all subsequent Avant-gardes.

He always maintained a figurative style but, like every great artist, went through various creative and expressive phases. In his early period, following his attendance at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, until around 1885, Ensor created a series of works that form the so-called dark period, in which dark and deep colors and a particular use of light, gentle yet vibrant, are inspired by the naturalism of the Flemish tradition. Here are the still lifes, portraits, intimate and melancholic bourgeois interiors, and landscapes with a flat and low horizon that we see in the first part of Please, Touch The Artwork 2.

Subsequently, Ensor turned to themes and styles of the avant-garde, approaching Symbolism and Decadence, anticipating the currents of the Fauves and Expressionism. He began to make more consistent use of bright colors, in line with Impressionism, to which he added the grotesque imagination of the early Flemish masters, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, creating masks, skeletons, ghosts, and demons used to satirize the most typical aspects of the bourgeois world.

These latter works are present in the second part of the video game and give an absurd kick to the atmosphere and narrative, transitioning from the initial ecstatic evocative contemplation to a true mental and emotional experience.

Ensor was a misanthrope, mocking humanity, but observing it carefully and still giving it enormous depth on his canvases.

In conclusion

The Flemish Government supported the realization of Please, Touch The Artwork 2, on the occasion of the Belgian EU Presidency 2024, and this really pleases me but does not surprise me because it is a work of considerable importance, from an artistic and cultural point of view.

Please, Touch The Artwork 2

It blew my mind. It took me on a journey into the hyperuranium. It gave me emotions, forced me to pause in contemplation, which is what a work of art should do. I can’t find a flaw in it.

The immersive power of this game, it must be emphasized, is also due to the choice of music, including pieces by Debussy and Satie, whose dreamy and suspended sounds blend perfectly for a complete experience.

In the first chapter of Please, Touch The Artwork, there was less contemplation and more reasoning. Mondrian himself is an artist who stimulates the intellect, while Ensor stimulates emotions and sensations more. He is evocative, tells a story, and that’s what Waterzooi did. He told us a story, thanks to which we now know a lot not only about Belgian art but about art in general, without ever being didactic. He left it to us to do everything; he just allowed us to touch the artwork.

Useful link:

Please, Touch the Artwork 2 Official website

“Please, Touch The Artwork 2 is an incredibly immersive and evocative experience that tells a story. Its developer, Thomas Waterzooi, has gifted us a true gem, through which we now know so much not only about Belgian art, but about art in general, without ever being didactic. He entrusted us with everything, merely allowing us to touch the artwork.”

  • Instructive and entertaining at the same time
  • Original
  • Masterfully crafted
  • Relaxing and contemplative
  • Might be less engaging for those who prefer action-packed gameplay
SCORE: 8.5


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I’m an Italian artist who came late to the gaming world but fell in love with it right away. I’m not the best gamer, and I choose titles that appeal to my personal preferences, but I can appreciate the graphics content and artistic solutions above all, even as I learn about all the fascinating game development features.