Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter (DS) Review
In 2007 5th Cell released what was then one of the first games to really use player created content in the game’s game play elements. The game went on to win a number of awards and sell nearly a million copies worldwide. There was a sequel spawned based on the Doodlebob episode of Spongebob and THQ has now released two direct sequels to the game.
Drawn to Life opens up with a mysterious shadow, which turns out to be the villain, Wilfre. He takes over the body of one of the villagers, Heather, in order to survive. The mayor of the village, Mari, goes to creation hall to bring a hero to life to save them, but things go wrong and the entire village starts losing color. It’s up to you, as the hero, and a small group of Raposa villagers to go to different parts of the world restoring the color and stopping Wilfre’s plans to rule to world.
At its heart Drawn to Life is a straight platforming game. The hook is that you, as the world’s creator, get to draw a number of different elements that inhabit the game world. You begin by drawing the Raposa’s hero, there are a few templates you can start with, or you can begin completely from scratch and draw whatever you desire. During the course of the game you’ll come up to a number of easels that will be used to draw different game play elements; things like platforms, wheels, cogs and weapons that can be used to progress through the game’s levels. The platforming itself is pretty simple and the game won’t pose too much of a challenge to experienced gamers. That’s not to say that the game will end up not being fun, because that’s far from the case. The story itself is very engaging and will keep you progressing to the end. There were times, like near the end of the Watersong Village segment where the game got downright sad. I won’t spoil it, but there might be a lump that forms in your throat when you see what happens.
Visually the game is of two different worlds. The story elements of the game where you’re traversing the over world portions is beautiful. The pre-rendered hand drawn backgrounds look like something out of the world of a children’s story, and everything has a large amount of detail. Each of the game’s four worlds begins as a solid white landscape where the color has been sucked out of the world. You’ll be asked to restore the color segments so that the characters can move to different areas of the world. You’ll do this by spending color points and using the stylus to fill in a highlighted area. When this is done, that area is opened up and you’ll be taken to the platform parts of that area. This is where the game’s visuals fall apart a bit. The elements that you draw look very out of place in contrast to the beautiful backgrounds. While you do get to add these elements its very jarring to see these ugly MS paint style drawings on top of the handcrafted beauty of the backgrounds.
Pay special attention to the music as you play. There are a large number of different themes that you’ll hear as you play through the story. The villain’s theme is especially memorable and I found I wanted Wilfre to show up on screen just to hear his music. The emotional segments of the story are accompanied by gorgeous melodies and the happier segments have bouncy themes that fit perfectly. There is not a song in the game that feels out of place or unmemorable. If the soundtrack were available for purchase I would buy it in an instant.
That’s not to say that the game is without faults. The actual platforming parts are very easy and there were not many times I felt like I couldn’t progress. The chances of you dying while playing aren’t very great and for the most part if you die you’ll be deposited somewhere on the screen you died. It’s a good idea for younger players as they’ll be able to progress easily. The drawings you make look very out of place and it would have almost been just as nice to have the game create these elements for you. There is a lot of talking in this game and it has a tendency to go on a little longer than it should. The story, while good, does take a long time to play out because of the extended talking scenes.
Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter is a very worthy sequel to the original game and 5th Cell really knows how to tell a good story. There are some improvements that could be made, but I think the DS hardware might limit that somewhat. This game is much improved over the original iteration and fans of the series should pick it up without question. I would be interested to see what the developers could do in the future to improve the platforming elements of the game. That is where things are just below the standard of everything else. The visual quality of the world is top notch and you’ll find a ton of detail in places you didn’t think possible. There is a multi-player aspect to the game, but all you can do is trade items that you’ve created. While a neat idea, it would be nice to see some multi-player platforming in the future. Two DS systems would allow each player to see only what they need to see and could be an interesting way to add some bigger puzzle elements to the game. If you’re looking for a good platform game that will keep you entertained for a while then you should look at Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter.
Final Score: 3/5 Average
Review Copy of the game provided by THQ. Screenshots courtesy of Wiiz.