Review by Arkrex

"And they say that a hero can save us... but who? Or what?"

When an evil shadow falls upon the village of the Raposa, threatening to eradicate its quaint population of cat-like beings, a hero arrives to save the day. As cliched as this story sounds, the proposal that Drawn to Life offers is anything but. You see, the hero is not your typical knight in shining armour, heavily equipped soldier, or angst-ridden teenager. In this game, YOU are the creator. You design the heroes and you draw up their weapons. Upon retrieving the stolen pages of the Book of Life, you will also have to draw up a new night sky, a new forest and some new buildings for the Raposa. And - as if the developers couldn't get any lazier - you will also have to draw up virtually every platform that you are in need of as you side-scroll your way to victory.

The idea of drawing up your own creations and then bringing them to life sounds like a dream come true. There is an overarching storyline that concerns itself with restoring the village to what it once was, but it all plays second fiddle to the gimmick of self-creation. Early on, the responsibility of fabricating a legendary hero is placed in your hands. It doesn't matter what kind of artistic talent you may or may not have; the simple-to-use editing interface, manipulated with both stylus and d-pad, along with a large variety of colour sets, patterns and stamps, streamlines the design process so that absolutely anyone can be proud of the products of their imagination.

Once you have settled with your dodgy Super Mario look-a-like, pixel-perfect Phoenix Wright, or totally original character sprite (mine was a giant one-winged tooth wielding a candlestick – appropriately named ‘Holy Molar') it's time to search the town for the mystical gates that will lead your hero to a snowy winter wonderland, the windy heights of a treetop, and even to the moon (and back), culminating in a final showdown in the realm of shadows. In each stage, you'll need to rescue three kidnapped residents, find four torn pages, and locate a couple of secret-unlocking medals - if you're good enough to find them. Drawn to Life's platforming sections are as typical as they come. There are enemies that you'll need to shoot up, slice up, or plain and simply, stomp on. And the many pits (some annoying bottomless ones included) will need to be circumvented by making use of a wide variety of platforms that do everything from helping you to spring upwards, to causing a hindrance by disappearing at set intervals of time.

Herein, lies the first problem of the game – there are just way too many platforms. Do I sound crazy? This is primarily a 2D platformer after all! No - the snag is being forced to draw all of these platforms as you come across them. Even if their functions are similar, you'll still need to fill in a rectangular template in order to progress forwards. Gamers that enjoy the drawing aspect more than actual gameplay will no doubt be oblivious to this flow disruption. I don't know about you, but I dislike being interrupted every few minutes just to draw something to walk on, or worse, to design air currents – whoopee.

There are sixteen side-scrolling levels in all. This may not seem like much, but with each one clocking in at an average of twenty minutes (and that's going pretty fast), plus the time spent in the mundane overworld, PLUS however many minutes you care to spend in drawing up to seventy-five(!) designs, this is definitely a long game with a lot of replay value if you are the sort of person interested in exploring the depths of your artistic imagination.

However, once the novelty of creating stuff wears off, there's not much that can be said about Drawn to Life that hasn't been done better before. The 2D sprites are well animated and are complemented well by your own designs; I've seen some pretty awesome pixel-art already, and with Wireless trading implemented (sadly no WiFi), a fellow artist with a DS and a copy of the game offers plenty of opportunity to show off your visual flair. The sound effects are nothing to croon about, but the music is a light mix of engaging and surprisingly captivating melodies. The events that occur on the overworld (the village) run entirely on a gamut of fetching... of conversations, that is; talk to Raposa X and Y before searching out of Raposa Z – it gets very tiresome, very fast. The platforming sections offer more action, but it's of the highly derivative sort. It's a straightforward left-to-right affair most of the time. It's also quite linear because all items, except for the secret unlockables, need to be found before moving onto the next section (ie. you can't miss anything really). And I'm sure that anyone will agree that twenty-minute-long levels borders on the excessive. On the bright side, yes, you do obtain a snowball and acorn shooting device (whatever you draw it to be) and you can wield a legendary blade and perform some basic combos with a few acrobatic flips and slides sneaked in, but this is clearly a kids game; as such, the mechanics are all very simple and this is definitely no Mario or Dante beater.

Take away all the glitz and glamour that you - the artist - provide, and you're left with a rather unexceptional shell of a platformer.

Drawn to Life is one of those few games that couldn't have been done a portable console other than a DS. As such, it earns merit points for being unique and entertaining. However, the underlying gameplay is not the reason for this; after the drawing gimmick wears itself thin, there's nothing else solid enough to rest upon once you're ready to land. Kids and their parents will have a ball with this, though - so too, will the casual gaming audience. On the other hand, core gamers will see it for what it really is - a good idea tucked away into a second-rate platformer.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/21/07

Game Release: Drawn to Life (US, 09/10/07)


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