Review by clarkisdark
Drawing a blank
It's not easy to be an artist when using the DS's stylus. And that's okay. Drawn to Life won't penalize you for having crappy drawings. Drawing in this game is purely for your own enjoyment, whether your drawings are realistic works of art or kindergarten scribbles (which can be very amusing). But drawing is an important aspect--and the main point--of Drawn to Life. It is as though the game is only half finished, and you are tasked with filling in the rest any way you like. So if the thought of designing elements to a game as you play it doesn't sound interesting, you need not apply.
The drawing tool is quite robust, though, and is a lot of fun to see in action. From the get-go, you are asked to draw a hero. Though you are confined to a human-like template, there are few other limitations. Want a one-legged pirate? A scantily-clad Samus Aran? A walking, talking corn on the cob? If that's your thing, do it. The game will take what you draw and animate it the best it can, which, truth be told, is a little choppy, but it works well enough. Similarly, when in a level, you will often reach points where you can't progress until you draw in the needed objects. At an underground lake, you are prompted to draw an ice cube so you can skip across the water. But why limit yourself to just an ice cube? Why not draw a frozen, decapitated head?
You don't always get this sort of carte blanche, however. There are several instances where you are given a very rigid template and are asked to simply color it in, like a whale or a parachute or a snowboard. There isn't much you can do to a sliver of canvas space that is supposed to be a snowboard. But, if you want to get creative, you could still draw a big blood splatter on the front of your submarine. See, I am very morbid about this stuff.
Many of the things you draw will only appear in that particular world or that particular level, though, which negates all the time you spend fussing over minute detail. Things like floating platforms are always present; you'll want to make sure you draw something fun and quirky for those. But what about when you're asked to make a coconut radio? It's only used once, so why bother putting any effort into it? Considering how often you are required to draw things, too, it is often easier to just quickly scribble something together so you can move on. There's a good chance your slapdash effort will never be seen again.
The appeal of drawing stuff will eventually wear off, so what keeps the game fun and enjoying? Er... not much, really. Drawn to Life is, at heart, a primitive platformer. Your character can jump on enemy heads and shoot them with a gun, but it's nowhere near the cleverness of Super Mario Bros. or the excitement of Metal Slug. This is obviously intended to be a kid's game, and the level design is a simple matter of walking forward, collecting coins, jumping over bad guys, and maybe--just maybe--pushing a block onto a switch. Frequently, there are times where you hang glide across a gap or ride a zip line to the bottom of a forest, but these mostly play out by themselves. This isn't just a straight dash to the end of the level, though. You'll end up doing some sidetracking in search of three trapped villagers, three special tokens, and four missing pages.
The tokens are mostly for collective purposes, but the villagers and missing pages are essential to the story. In Drawn to Life, there is a village of cat-like creatures that is surrounded by darkness. Your duty is to bring back the villagers and do away with the dark clouds by restoring the lost pages to the book of life. Every time you add to the book, more of the town is brought back to life, and this ends up needing to be colored or drawn. When you rescue the cook, he asks you to design a new sign for him (I, of course, just wrote the word DIE). When you rescue the farmer, you get to design what his crops look like (which I turned into suit-wearing chickens). It's fun to see the town come alive and take on bits of your warped imagination.
On the other hand, these long, drawn-out town segments are... well... long and drawn-out. After giving the lost page back to the mayor, he will send you on multiple errands around town, most of which deal with delivering a message to somebody because he's too lazy to find that person himself. In turn, those people send you back to the mayor with their own message. I don't like this town. Everybody has to report to the mayor after everything they do, but they are incapable of doing it themselves. The point to this running back and forth is to uncover a reason to venture into a new level and retrieve another page of the book. Unfortunately, it just ends up being a tedious waste if time.
Drawn to Life is at first a very entertaining game. There is so much you are allowed to draw yourself, from your character to the gust of wind that helps him/her fly with the wings you made. If you are a big fan of user-created content, you will love this game. But when you take away the drawing aspect, you realize there isn't much left to hold Drawn to Life together. This is a basic, often boring platformer interchanged with some ridiculous fetch-quest town segments. Being able to draw as you play can only stay novel for so long. After that, there's little reason to continue when you've got games like New Super Mario Bros. that do platforming ten times better.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Drawn to Life (US, 09/10/07)
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