Art Buzz January 9, 2012: The Tate Modern’s New iPhone Art History Game Is Actually Super Fun



The Tate’s New iPhone Art History Game Is Actually Super Fun

Courtesy iTunes
The Tate’s new App, “Race Against Time”

The Tate Modern has just launched “Race Against Time,” a free iPhone game designed by creative firm Somethin’ Else and available now in Apple’s app store. A cheery, cartoony dodging exercise, the game stars a chameleon on a time-traveling quest to stop one Dr. Greyscale in his evil plan of removing all the color from the world. Though the gameplay is fast-paced and certainly addictive, the real charm comes in the character design and brightly colored backgrounds of “Race Against Time.”

Over the course of the adventure, our hero encounters striped-shirt-wearing Picassos, flaming absinthe bottles, deadly Dan Flavin light sculptures, and a giant Joseph Beuys figure strung up in a parachute and cradling a hare. A collision with any of these figures will cause the chameleon to lose a life. Each progressive level in the game reflects a consecutive era in art history, ranging from 1900 to 2011. The game kicks off with Impressionism, showcasing a background of Monet bridges that slowly bleeds into Seurat park-goers. Soon, we encounter Cezanne tablescapes and African masks in Fauvism. There’s even a Mexican muralism level complete with cacti, snakes, and Aztec imagery.

Exploring further into the future, Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” morphs impressively into abstract Jackson Pollock paint swirls. The Pop level goes from Campbell’s Soup cans to a cameo by Robert Rauschenberg’s “Monogram,” a sheep belted by a tire. The game is clearly up on its art-historical references, and it’s fun to name them as they pop up (though the division of art historical movements is a little strange at times).

What’s in this free iPhone game for the museum? Well, it’s a great, fun publicity stunt for one thing. But it also encourages players to go to the actual museum: opening the game inside the Tate (location is ensured by smartphone GPS) will unlock “Turbo Mode,” which lets the chameleon use a supercharged jump and kill enemies with its tongue. Once players beat levels of art history, they also have access to an “achievements” section that compares the works seen in the game to actual paintings in the Tate’s collection.

ARTINFO had quite a bit of trouble on the Minimalism level, but we offer this hint: make sure to grab one of the invisibility power-ups, and be ready to use it quick.