Review: Drawn to Life: SpongeBob SquarePants Edition

DrawnToLifeSpongeBob.jpg If you have tracked the release lists, especially during the busy holiday season, you can verify that there have been loads of DS games released. You could also likely see that there are two categories that are over-represented: games that piggy-back on popular ‘quirky DS game’ franchises such as Petz or Nintendogs, and games based on popular kids’ characters. These games are also often referred to as ‘shovelware’, a derogatory term used to indicate that a game is of relatively low quality and entertainment value and was rushed out to make some quick money over a popular trend. Seeing a re-release of the popular 2007 game Drawn to Life with the popular character SpongeBob SquarePants on the cover immediately made the term ‘shovelware’ jump to mind. Is the label justified? Read on and find out!

Drawn to Life was a seemingly cute adventure/RPG that seemed aimed at younger kids, but had a surprising depth that made it appeal to all ages. You start by drawing and naming your hero, then are tasked with revitalizing your town by drawing and naming objects. This simplistic mechanic was surprisingly refreshing, felt innovative and offered hours of fun.

Fortunately the developers have done more than just add SpongeBob to the existing game – they created a new story that fits nicely with the characters and setting, and also makes great use of the Drawn to Life gameplay mechanic. You start off watching Patrick in his sleep catch a pencil that has fallen into the water and accidentally draw the evil ‘DoodleBob’, who goes off to destroy Bikini Bottom! Fortunately a second pencil was dropped, so you can create a new hero to save the day!

As was true with the original, the graphics are charming and colorful and fit in perfectly with the TV show. Of course, a large part of the graphics is based on how well you do drawing all of the stuff you need to produce. In my case that ranged from ‘amateur’ to ’embarrassing’. The sounds are unsurprisingly excellent – this is certainly not the first DS SpongeBob game THQ has released, and it shows in the overall presentation.

The problems that plagued the original – that ultimately having to continually draw meaningless stuff to fill out the world – remains here, but is even worse. The original did a better job of keeping things fresh and interesting, whereas Drawn to Life: SpongeBob SquarePants falls flat after the promising introduction. It is not a terrible game by any stretch – in fact, my kids prefer it to the original based solely on the license. They have been laughing and drawing silly stuff around the familiar setting and generally having a blast. And that is why I am giving this a ‘Try It’ recommendation – while for myself and many others the original Drawn to Life is an easy choice, for kids and fans of SpongeBob this game works well enough to provide several hours of fun.

TryIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Solid presentation
+ Good basic gameplay mechanic
+ Good use of license

Cons:
– Drawing gets old at times
– Original is better
– Appeal based solely on license

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Altron
Release Date: 9/16/08
Genre: Action / Adventure
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-2

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!