uDraw Studio review

Nintendo consoles have certainly never been strangers to unusual attachments in the past and this tradition has carried well on into the 21st Century. Remember Rob the Robot, The Super Scope, The Gamecube Bongos and the Wii Balance Board? Is there anything that Nintendo cannot design to be plugged into the controller socket? Now it’s the turn of THQ to get in on the act and bring a new peripheral to the Wii, intrigued? So was I.

You may have seen expensive drawing tablets for PC’s in the past and thought they were pretty cool. I mean just think about it…you draw using a special pen onto a digital pad and your artwork appears right up on the big screen. It’s like something out of Star Trek!

The THQ uDraw tablet brings that same technology down to the home user for the Nintendo Wii console at a fairly low price. Of course this isn’t being aimed at the Adobe Illustrator crowd, no they will have to keep using their Apple Mac’s for the time being, but this could keep the kids amused while Dad is working on the real thing in his study..

My initial impressions of the uDraw Game Tablet were very positive; the packing is very attractive, featuring plenty of pictures and the front of the box has a flap which when lifted, explains in a bit more detail how the tablet works. Once I got inside the box I was even more impressed by the Game Tablet itself because even though it was actually smaller and lighter than I expected – the look, feel and build quality were very Nintendo-esque.

To start with the tablet has been designed to match the Wii’s original minimalist colour scheme of white, blue and grey. As I said the device is small, around six inches long and four inches wide and a single inch thick. The tablet is surprisingly light and feels quite durable, I can’t say for certain that your neighbours horrible children wouldn’t be able to break it quite easily; but I think it will certainly withstand common knocks and bumps. The stylus itself is very chunky and reminds me of oversized children’s colouring pencils you see in Infant Schools – it features a dual button on one side and is attached to the tablet by a sturdy and rather short cord. Note; the manual instructs you not to cut the stylus off with scissors, so if you were thinking about it…stop now.

One thing you won’t miss when first glancing at the uDraw Tablet is a whacking great whole along the left hand side, no this isn’t a design flaw. It’s actually THQ being rather clever to utilize many of the Wii Remote’s features and design. The uDraw tablet doesn’t require batteries or need to be connected to the Wii via a long and untidy USB cable. Simply grab your Wii Remote (without the jacket and motionplus) and slot it into the uDraw tablet, this not only powers but also transmits the drawing data via the controller’s bluetooth connection. It’s a very tidy and cost effective design but those of you who use third party battery packs could find that the Wii Controller may not fit.

Okay so the uDraw is well designed, looks nice and feels good to hold, but what about the software? Included in the box is uDraw studio, an art package mainly aimed at young children and families that does have some advanced features for the real creative types, opacity and colour mixing for example.

The software interface is big and colourful as you might expect with the software having to be accessible for young kids. Despite this, younger ones will probably require some help going through the menus and getting things started, however once they start scribbling they probably will not stop.

Before you actually get creative you have a number of options, first you choose the type of paper or material you would like to draw/paint upon. Obvious examples are paper, canvas and chalkboard. The difference in these is more graphical than anything but for best results it does make sense to use chalk on the chalkboard and paint on the canvas. Next you can choose from a multitude of different environments to get those juices flowing. These are really nothing more than a theme that provide background music and a picture – very inoffensive and I don’t have any issues drawing to the sound of the ocean or an art class.

I’m not sure if it’s really worth going into terrible long details about every brush type and choice of colour available. Let it be known that youDraw Studio features everything you’ll need to create nice pictures – all the usual stuff like; pens, crayons, brushes paint and enough colours to decorate Windsor Castle. Those not old enough (or good enough in my case) can take things one step at a time and start of slowly by ‘colouring in’. It must be said that my drawing skills are so bad that I did have more fun just splashing my own colour into the previously drawn images of Space, Animals and the like. Drawing from scratch has never been a skill of mine, much to my regret.

Regardless of how good/bad or young/old you happen to be, all of your creative work can be relived at anytime in a quite amusing video replay of your work (It brings back memories of watching Tony Hart on TV). Not only that but your finished articles can be saved to SD Card and plonked over into your PC or Cell Phone and emailed to all of your friends. Certainly a nice feature that is made a little redundant when you realise that nearly all computers have a semi-comparable art package such as Microsoft Paint, preinstalled for free. D’oh.

Alright alright I’ve beaten around the bush for long enough, what you really want to know is if the thing is actually any good or not. The question on your lips probably is; Will the uDraw tablet help my kiddy become the next Leonardo Da Vinci? Well the answer is probably no. You see the hardware and software are both fine in a limited sort of way; the downside is that it is very hard to get beyond the physical differences of drawing on real paper as opposed to drawing onto a blank tablet whilst your eyes are fixed upon your television. This requires a very different style of hand to eye coordination and many will find it very tricky altogether; drawing on a tablet is an acquired talent and some of the best artists in the world would find it a struggle.

In the end I can’t help feeling that this makes drawing somewhat harder and in the long run, less enjoyable. In reality you’ll create drawings that are worse than you could have created with real materials and a bit of time an patience. Now with that said I don’t want you to think that your kids will not love drawing on the TV because I’m sure they probably will. Just I personally happen to think that giving them real pencils and paper will be much more beneficial.

THQ have produced some games that are compatible with the uDraw which are sold separately;

Purely as an art device with the bundled art software I am hesitant to recommend the uDraw Game Tablet, however if purchased alongside one or more of the optional games available I could see uDraw being a bit more entertaining. Hopefully THQ will keep supporting the uDraw tablet for many months to come and provide greater software titles and therefore a bigger reason to buy it. uDraw studio gets a 6 out of 10.

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uDraw Studio review pics

uDraw Studio review screenshots

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