What with the upcoming SpongeBob edition of Drawn to Life hitting the shelves, I thought I should head back and take a look at where it all started, the original Drawn to Life for DS, yes I did miss it the first time around.
Have you ever looked at a Video Game and thought, ‘Those graphics are rubbish, I could do better than that’? I know I have, and I’m pretty sure you have to. It doesn’t matter how bad our own artistic skills may be, we still think that we are so talented and could improve on something drawn by proper artists with qualifications. Even though my drawing skills are totally awful for some reason I still have the nerve to moan and groan when the graphics of INSERT GAME NAME HERE aren’t up to the standard set by some other video game with a development cost of 10 million dollars and the playability value of 10 pence. Well Drawn to Life for the DS was my chance to set the record straight, a game where I can take over from that talentless graphic artist and draw my own main character, weapons and vehicles. Would you like to know how I got on as an artist in my Review of Drawn to Life? You do, fantastic…well here goes.
Drawn to Life DS is a 2D Platformer with a smidgen of top down RPG thrown in for good measure. You are the creator, a god like figure who created everything in the Raposa world (and beyond). For some reason you created the world and decided to bog off for a few centuries, in that time the special book which has the power to turn drawings into life has been stolen and ripped to shreds, but that’s not the worst of it; it turns out when you don’t perform miracles every day it turns out everyone forgets about you and ends up thinking you’re just a myth (Jesus if you’re reading this, take note). But one girl believes you are real and prays for you to come and save the Raposa Village from the evil guy called Wilfre. He is using the power of the Book of Life (before he shredded it to pieces I presume?) to cover the world in a dark and overbearing cloud of shadow, and typically as the Eternal Flame has gone out there is nothing to stop it. Cripes!
What with all this shadow business, all the Raposa villagers have packed up shop and left looking for a better life elsewhere. Only the village Mayor; his daughter, and some has-been villagers remain. Now it’s time for you to step in and stop this madness, you’ll need to design a hero to help out on the ground level though (there is only so much you can do with your godly stylus up in the sky you know!) See that mannequin lying in the corner over there? Well if you were to draw a silly face and some fancy clothes on it maybe it would come to life and help out with the world saving affair.
This is your first spot of drawing in the game but is one of the most important, here you draw and colour your game hero who will be the main focus of Drawn to Life, it is who you will be controlling to explore the Village and who you’ll be using throughout all the platforming. So it might be worth taking your time and drawing someone nice looking (Matt Cuttle perhaps?), oh you can give them a name too – I chose the name Chuckie as my hero looked a bit like the doll from the Childs Play movies. You get a simple palette of 25 colours (more to unlock later) and three pen sizes which doesn’t sound much, but it more than enough to draw something cool – if you have the ability and eye for detail/shading that is. Otherwise you’ll end up with a weird disjointed looking fellow, but hey, who said a hero has to be good looking anyway? Don’t fret too much, it is possible to come back and edit your hero later if you so wish. Yay!
Next up you need to go and rescue the mayor, he’s a bit silly and went off to try and find some missing kid in the snow world on his own (silly old fool) – it’s time for you and your hero to go and do some platforming fun and bring back the Mayor, you’ll then be able to plan your next move to help save the village. Right enough of that, what about the real game.
The Drawn to Life platforming levels are where the game becomes more exciting, here you’ll be running, jumping, shooting and butt stomping on baddies like any other mainstream platformer. There are coins to collect, bonuses to find and other important little things to do (cleaning shadow goo ala Mario Sunshine for starters).
On each level there are three ex villagers to rescue, it seems that in their bid to find a better life in Swansea they’ve all been trapped in a cage made of shadow goo by the evil Wilfre, simply break it open and they’ll be sent back to the safety of the village, but listen, if you want to join them back in Raposa land you’ll need to have unlocked the exit gate by finding four torn pieces of a Book of Life page, otherwise you’ll be trapped. As you progress the levels become harder and the villagers, page pieces and bonuses are hidden in harder places throughout the level, sometimes a bit more lateral thought will be needed to locate them – but nothing too taxing, it’s usually a case of having to track back and travel up a previously inaccessible area which is now accessible due to you having drawn a giant moving rock which is acting like a lift for example. Overall though it’s a simple side scrolling action with a boss after every five or so levels, I’ve played this sort of game before many times and so have you, but when a platformer is fun, it’s not too much of a trial (better than school/work anyway).
Things really interesting in the platforming mode when you come up to a sign post which asks you to do some drawing before you can proceed, so you might have to draw a cloud that you can jump on, the branches to a tree so you can climb it or even the leaves in a windy breeze that will keep you afloat. This is all well and good but it’s not exactly what the phrase “Draw your very own game” brings to mind when you read it on the game box, the actual game itself is 99% complete and you only get to draw a token number of things, but it’s certainly better than nothing. To be honest most of your creative time is spent colouring pre drawn creations such as vehicles (a rocket ship, a surfboard, a submarine, etc) and fixtures in the top down RPG mode (buildings and signs). It’s more about personalization then creating your own game really. If you want our advice, make sure you draw everything with a thin black border; this really helps make your drawings blend into the game and not make them look as amateurish.
The coins you collect don’t directly give you anything great like extra lives but you can spend them at the village shop to buy special moves for your hero (such as an Uppercut or Flick Kick- hei ya!) or extra colour palettes (scribble). If you’re feeling lucky you could toss loads of coins into the wishing well which could result in a prize of 10 extra lives, or as it usually turns out, absolutely nothing.
As you progress your hero will gain some weapons (three types of gun and a sword), all of which you have the opportunity of customizing graphically, though the ammo is set. The shooting dynamic is a nice addition to the gameplay, being able to hit enemies from longer range is handy, ammunition is limited to what you can find hidden in the level though so you’ll have to them sparingly, the sword of course has no ammo but does reach further – sadly though your hero seems to hold it backwards and doesn’t swing it very well so actual hit distance is reduced somewhat.
Overall then folks Drawn to Life is a fun game, the platforming is a bit basic and isn’t as innovative in gameplay as New Super Mario Bros, but the interaction with the game with being able to Draw a fair bit of content and customize others with your choice of colour does make things somewhat interesting but don’t be fooled, this isn’t a difficult platformer and it’s the RPG sequences where you have to do benign and boring tasks for the villagers which really gobble up the hours, however a fun bit of platforming can be found if you persevere.
Graphically Drawn to Life is pretty good, the original visuals are clean, sharp and colourful on the DS, as much as I hate to admit it – it’s my own drawing skills that looked naff, and it’s likely yours will too – the simple toolbox provided isn’t up to the standard of the silicon pc workstation that the game was likely developed on.
It should last you a good 20-30 hours to finish the game, even with its secrets to find and tough final boss – sadly there is not much replay value after you’ve seen the end credits but it’s fun while it lasts and makes good use of the touch screen for creativity and plays like any other platformer with the D-pad and buttons. I award Drawn to Life a squiggly 7 out of 10.