Drawn To Life – The Next Chapter: review

  • Format: Wii (version reviewed), DS
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: THQ
  • Developer: Planet Moon Studios (Wii version), 5th Cell (DS version)
  • Players: 1 (2 in mini games)
  • Site: www.drawntolife.com
  • The Drawn To Life games allow you to design and draw your hero from scratch. This meant only one thing; unofficial CG mascot Jeremy The Sad Flamingo was going to become a reality! Ever the perfectionist, Michael spent over three hours telling us to get the expression just right. “He doesn’t look sad, he looks perturbed!” “No, no, now he just looks distressed! Come on, let me do it…”

    Before the long and painful birth of Jeremy, we first of all had to draw the sun, the moon, and even the planet itself. You – not your carefully designed avatar, but you, sat on your chair, sofa, beanbag, servant, whatever – are God. The game makes this clear throughout, with lots of references to the Creator. The people of the village which acts as the level hub show you lots of indirect respect, but no worship; which enraged us to the point where we wanted to turn the ungrateful little scum into pillars of salt. Sadly, this is not an option.

    We could've drawn something this good but, er...look! Behind you!

    This is not a god sim see, but a 2D platformer – with a bit of a twist. Your drawing skills aren’t limited to the main character and celestial objects. You’ll be called upon to draw little and often in every single level. Usually, this will involve drawing some sort of decoration for the level, or an in – game object such as a vehicle or platform. You’ll be taken to a creation screen outside of the level for drawing such objects, so you can lavish as much love upon them as you wish.

    And if you’ve got the skill and patience, you can come up with some impressive creations (some of the developer avatars shown over the end game credits are very good). If you play the Wii version like we did, it becomes immediately obvious that drawing in mid air with a remote control isn’t the ideal way of doing things – in fact, the DS version is apparently a completely different game. You can zoom in (even down to individual pixels) however, and there are line, shape, and stamp tools to help you – so time and effort really can still be rewarded. Anything you draw is quickly and easily integrated into the game, and there are never any collision detection problems; though on rare occasions, if you don’t draw to the end of the template you’re given, the edges of the object are ‘invisible’.

    There are still plenty of times you’ll draw directly into the game world during gameplay. You’ll often come across large squares or rectangles of dotted lines to draw into, which come in three colours. Anything you draw in blue will hang in mid – air wherever you draw it, which is usually exploited to allow you access to higher platforms. Draw something in red, and you’ll find it’s subject to the laws of physics (which basically means it’ll fall to the ground, and sometimes you can push it around). Draw in green, and you’ll have drawn yourself a makeshift trampoline that stays wherever you drew it. Even though you draw an actual trampoline for the game world at one point.

    Sometimes, when you feel down, you just want to be alone.

    In fact, we must return to the issue of designing and drawing in – game objects. It’s good to see plenty of your drawings all over the game world. For example, we were asked to draw a heart for the energy pickup. We instead drew a curry Pot Noodle as this is what Jeremy, as a flamingo, eats. However, the game asks you to draw something new seemingly every few minutes, like an overzealous art teacher still bitter at his wife for divorcing him. “Draw a bat. Draw a sword. A bird, a rat, a flower. Draw a helicopter. Don’t ask me why, just do it!!!

    It’s rather ironic then that a game that demands the player use so much of their imagination, is so largely unimaginative itself. Levels and gameplay are hugely derivative of other platformers, mainly titles from a decade or more ago. Collecting coins and jumping on heads is very Mario, with the car sections being obvious nods to Sonic. The enemies look like half finished Pokemon, and the villagers in the hub section put us in mind of Animal Crossing. If the Animal Crossing residents all looked almost identical, and had all the charm sucked out of them.

    Still, in the levels where you’re not holding a weapon, you can punch enemies in the face. Brilliant.

    The above criticisms could perhaps be excused by claims that the Drawn To Life titles are meant as kid’s games (as though children were less deserving of quality titles). Every now and then however, you’ll come across a particularly fiddly platform section that makes you wonder just how young the target audience is. Mind you, it’s often foolish to underestimate the gaming abilities of young children; and the drawing aspect will certainly fire the more powerful imagination of the younger gamer.

    Photobucket

    This kid looks too happy. Go back up to Jeremy.

    Look at the game with a cynical adult eye, and the fairly bland game cowering behind all the scribbling is plain to see. Some surprisingly inspired puzzles involving drawing in the red boxes make an appearance toward the end of the game, but by then it feels like too little too late. There’s plenty to find and unlock throughout the (rather short) story mode, but few people would want to go to the trouble of doing so.

    If you have a young child with good reading skills (you’re told what you’re supposed to be drawing each time via on – screen text) that finds the basic concept of Drawn To Life fascinating, they may well manage to drag a lot of enjoyment out of this. If you’re thinking of buying it for yourself however, you need to think long and hard about just how excited you’ll get at seeing your drawings in a platform game.

    Not even Jeremy was enough to make this a Critical Hit.

    6/10

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

7 comments

  1. KrazyFace /

    I was looking at this in Game yesterday on the DS, maybe when it’s cheaper then. Great review by the way, smiles!

  2. Michael J /

    Jeremy needs his own game to really shine by the sounds of it. It could begin after he is fired from his job as a piece of garish lawn furniture for being a manic depressive who scares children. It would then go on to recount his adventures as he veers between suicide attempts and the writing of melancholic poetry. Smash hit for sure.

    Was considering this as a possible christmas present for the kid sister, might try Lostwinds instead though after reading the review.

    • KrazyFace /

      I dunno, I think my nephew might like this anyway. He had his DS at my house last weekend and was showing me a Chipmonks music game, it was total garbage but he seemed to love it! I know there’s no accounting for taste, but I think kids see the world differently to us, especially when it comes to games.

      He was also loving the old skool version of Rampage on my PS3, until I told him it was older than him!!!

  3. Michael J /

    Yeah, I’ve bought my younger siblings some pretty bad games before because they were on offer, haha. But I mean, for a 5-7 year old a game that says Spongebob Squarepants on the box is probably going to excite them more than a game that’s actually good, at least initially.

    • KrazyFace /

      I hear that! I gave him Animal Crossing for his DS, but he seems to enjoy cartoon-tie-in games much more, I suppose franchising does work!

  4. Luke K /

    I ought to emphasise here, that the DS version is a completely different game by a completely different developer, and lots of journalists have been making excited noises about it; but I’ve only played the Wii version.

    • KrazyFace /

      Hrmm, that’s why I was a little confused by your review! Thanks for clearing that up for me.

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