🎮 Death Palette

2024年 2月 20日
Indie Tsushin 2024 February issueThis article was featured in our 2024 February issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
Death Palette by SleepingMuseum

CW: This game and article contains graphic depictions of cartoon gore and death.

Trapped in a secret room filled with a malevolent aura, an artist sits alone in front of a cursed painting of a young girl. Although the artist has a seemingly infinite number of lives, they cannot bear the thought of being locked in with this awful portrait. Although they are horrified by the curse, they also cannot take their eyes off the eerily beautiful girl. Let me tell you the story of Death Palette, a game by SleepingMuseum.

Death Palette is a horror adventure game with many puzzle elements. The story begins with our protagonist accepts the challenge of completing an unfinished painting of a girl. Unbeknownst to them, the cursed painting has already claimed the lives of countless artists. The girl in the painting has a will of her own, and speaks directly to the artist. She is also capricious and selfish, and will kill the painter should her mood ever sour. As the story unfolds, the player will learn how to satisfy the girl's requests, complete the painting, and discover the secret of the curse.

Portrait of a young girl on a canvas speaking to the player with eyes closed and hands folded.

"Are you... the next painter?"

The game is mostly rendered in black and white, creating an eerie atmosphere. But during the segments when the player adds elements to the painting, splashes of color are used to great effect. More importantly, these colorful puzzles are what will determine whether the artist lives or dies.

As an example, the girl in the painting asks for an apple to eat. In order to draw an apple, you'll need to find a real-life model of an apple somewhere in this dark and creepy room. And of course, apples are red so this one should be painted so... right?

Table with two white macarons sitting on top, with overturned chairs and other bricabrac nearby.

Try to find motifs and objects scattered around the room to fulfill the mysterious girl's requests.

This is actually the first puzzle in the game, so I won't spoil it for you. But just know that upon completing this puzzle, you will be acutely aware of the danger of your situation. And remember: if you use the wrong colors, or place elements haphazardly in the frame, the girl will not hesitate to kill you. No matter how much you look around, there is no exit; you are trapped here until you have finished painting her.

Although the player is alone, they also have a cell phone that periodically buzzes. These mysterious messages from unknown senders give hints, of a sort, but mostly convey their own powerlessness to understand the situation. Who are these people, and what is this place?

Chalk silhouette of a body next to the canvas, with red blood spurting out of the head.

"The victim was found in the atelier, cause of death: blunt force trauma to the head."

As you clear more of her requests and spend more time with the girl, you may find yourself relating with and coming to an understanding with her. Your mind may fill with questions about her actions. Why does she keep killing you? Why does she go to such lengths to stop her painting from being completed?

The game focuses on fulfilling the girl's requests and adding new elements to her painting. This usually requires looking around the dark room for motifs to add to your sketch collection, then placing them somewhere in her frame. After that, a roulette wheel of color will spin around the object, and you tap the screen to get it to stop on one and color in the object. The actual mechanics of this phase is quite simple and intuitive, and so all of your focus can remain on the girl and what sort of reaction she will have. The roulette wheel function also adds tension to the scene, as if it is an expression of the painter's hesitation or impatience in the moment.

Black and white portrait of the girl with an apple floating next to her head. Around the apple is a spinning wheel of red, yellow, and blue paint blobs.

This simple but effective color wheel puts the player on the spot. Choose the right color, or face her wrath.

As the game progresses, the puzzles get more complex and require more advanced solutions. It feels like a rapid-fire escape room game where every move could lead to your death.

Speaking of death, the game also catalogs your various gruesome deaths in the Death Gallery. It is both morbid and quite fun to collect all the different ways of dying, and encourages the player to not be afraid of failure since even then, they will be "rewarded" with a new death scene. With this collection, you can imagine the final days of all the other artists who lost their lives working on this painting.

The girl's neck craned at an unnatural 90-degree angle, one eye squinted closed and the other wide open and red. She is holding up a red apple next to her.

"My, how beautiful!"

Death Palette has gained quite a reputation for a reason, and it has captivated many players. The way the story unfolds and the quick puzzles are elaborately linked, and pulling apart all of the secrets in this game is a treat. I want as many people as possible to have the same experience I did, so if you do play, I recommend not looking up any spoilers or worrying about making the wrong choices in the game. There are so many things I want to talk about, and I think that most people who have played this would feel the same way.

Death Palette is readily available on iOS and Android for free, with small fees to get rid of ads and unlock a gallery of behind-the-scenes concept art and sketches. The game is also slated for a console release later this year. I am very glad that more people can have a chance to play this game, and I am looking forward to hearing your opinions about it!

Death Palette is currently out on iOS and Android, and is coming soon to consoles. Visit SleepingMuseum's homepage for updates and information about their other works.