Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Drawn to Life (DS) Review

Today is the North American release date of Scribblenauts, the next game by 5th Cell, the team behind this reviewed game. The original Drawn to Life was a creative if not easy platformer for the Nintendo DS. Expect a review of Scribblenauts in the coming weeks. As for now, here's a classic review of Drawn to Life.

The Stylus is Mightier Than the Sword.

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Drawn to Life is an interesting experiment crafted by the folks at THQ. Wait. What? THQ? The company that produces those average Nickolodeon games and other shovelware? Hold it right there! Don't leave this review yet! Their latest game, developed by 5th Cell, is one of most refreshing handheld titles to come out in awhile, and it possesses its own unique charm.

Your role in Drawn to Life is as The Creator-- a deity who watches over a village (which you can later name) full of cute characters called Roposa. However, an evil Roposa named Wilfre concocted an army of dark shadows to turn the once happy land into a foreboding realm of darkness. Not fulfilled with just doing that, Wilfre tore numerous pages out of the Book of Life-- the book containing the Roposa village's assets such as the moon, the stars, several important buildings, and much more. The pages were scattered throughout many worlds. With little hope for the village left, many of the Roposa abandoned the town. This is where you come in. The three Raposa remaining beg to you to create a hero to help them turn their village back to its former glory by designing a hero over the body of a mannequin. Players can design up to three heroes to play as.

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Create a character from scratch...

The game flow is rather simple. The mayor will ask you to gather the four page segments of one platforming level, so he can return them back to the Book of Life. After retrieving the segments and placing the page into the Book of Life, the Creator must then draw the object needed using a template for guidance. The object drawn will then return to the village in tangible form.

There's two parts of Drawn to Life's gamplay. There's the village where you'll on an overhead map, scurrying to and from, talking to Raposas to gather information to continue to the next level, and then there's the platforming stages. What does one do in these stages, you ask? Well, a variety of things. For one, there's three Raposa hidden in each level to gather. These were Raposas who abandoned the village in its hour of need but were later captured in shadow cages by Wilfre. Additionally, there's templates or page segments that need to be gathered which are also strewn about the level. Players must collect all of the Rapos and templates in an area to continue on in the level. Finally, there's three hidden secrets in each level. These range from patterns for drawing to stamps to new abilities. Wilfre's stretch of dominance is present in each area of the game. By rubbing the stylus over the icky black goo you'll come across, you can scrub and clean the goo from the level.

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...Or use a pre-made template.

The controls of the platforming sections are responsive as well as fluid. There's enemies to leap on as well as shoot with your custom-designed shooter Tokens are the currency which come in various colors and values to be used at a village shop. When your character gets hit, it reveals part of its mannequin base. Get hit as bare mannequin, and you lose a life. Platforming won't win any rewards for originality, but that's okay. The main "draw"-- pun intended-- of Drawn to Life is the creation aspect. Not only can you create you own characters, but in all of the levels you'll come across dotted-line shapes that need The Creator to fill them in. For instance, there's platforms that need to be drawn to advance, so all you need to do is let your creativity run wild and draw any form of platform within the perimeter of the dotted lines. I drew a colorful horizontal carrot for platforms. There's A LOT of customization in Drawn to Life. You'll draw new shooters for your character, springs that bounce you to and fro, tiki heads (I designed mine to resemble Mario) that leap from one position to another, a rocket ship, submarine, hang glider, snowboard, surfboard, wings for your character, a sword to wield, and so much more. There's really nothing like seeing your own drawing creations in action to put a smile on your face.

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The Raposa village of whatever you wish to call it.

The first three worlds each have five levels in them including the boss battle level.
There's four big boss battles in the game. These are the most difficult part of Drawn to Life, and even then they're quite formulaic and easy to beat. However, they could give a young child a run for the money. The platforming and boss levels in Drawn to Life are split up by play-time in the village itself, going to speak with various Rapos to progress in the game, drawing new items for the village from the pages of the Book of Life collected in each of the levels, and buying goodies from the secret items you collected in the levels. The Rapos in the village each have their own personalities, and even though it's a kids game basically there's still humor that adults like myself will laugh at.

So what about the drawing? Well, it's pretty easy and intuitive to get into. You get the perimeter of the shape, and you must draw an object within those lines. It's perfect for beginners who can just color in the shape with the fill-in tool, and it's nice for advanced drawers to be able to have a sense of freedom in what they want to draw. Character creation is fair for any skill of artist. There's pre-made templates that you can simply base your character off of, or you can just draw whatever is in your mind's eye instead. There's a decent amount of colors to choose from to give any drawing an extra dimension if desired. Furthermore on the graphics, the backgrounds are rich and vibrant. Enemy models are well done, and the character designs are apt also. The music is quite good. There's a number of notable pieces, and even a touching vocal piece that runs before the credits.

A main problem that Drawn to Life has is its difficulty. It's clearly made for the younger crowd, and with that comes an easy difficulty. Skilled gamers will have no problems plowing through this game within ten hours-- drawing time excluded. However, does this mean that Drawn to Life won't appeal to adults? Of course not, and only the insecure would say otherwise. Drawing gives the game a lot of depth, but without that this title would just seem like just another average THQ platformer in the line of Jimmy Neutron or Spongebob Squarepants. You needn't be an artist to enjoy this game. All you need is a little creativity. If making stick figures or wangs (I know there's some of you out there) is your thing, great. You'll like Drawn to Life. If you're more into high-detailed art, hey, you'll like Drawn to Life as well. It's a solid purchase, and I would best describe it as an Eastern game from a Western developer. It's a nice combination, and for all intents and purposes it works wonderfully regardless of its ease of difficulty and brevity.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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