Review: Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter (DS)

DrawnToLifeNextChapterDS.jpg I remember seeing the Nicholson/Keaton movie Batman: there were a bunch of old high school friends who had kept in touch through college and had settled back into the Boston area for work. All of us had been fans of Batman as kids, so this was just a grand event. Later, I saw the follow-up with my wife and even then it was clear things were fraying at the edges, and by Batman Forever the wheels were coming off in anticipation of the thorough train wreck that was Batman & Robin. So what does this have to do with Drawn to Life? Read on to see where my analogy leads…

Drawn to Life was released in 2007 and presented an interesting premise: you are placed in a game world with plenty of structure, but also with the ability to add your own touches by drawing your own characters and items and by adding colors to objects found around the world. You are actually involved as ‘the creator’ and have loyal followers who need you to create a hero to help them repel the forces of darkness. It was a fun game, but in spite of an absolutely stellar use of the touch screen, only an average experience. Yet when asked about ‘must have’ games for the DS, this is one that always seems to be mentioned.

The follow-up game, Drawn to Life: SpongeBob SquarePants Edition, refined some elements of the original game, but was largely a repeat of the initial idea re-tweaked for an even broader, younger audience. Once again, it was more fun than it deserved to be, and everyone in my house had fun playing and generally being silly with the ability to manipulate the world.

So now we get to see a true sequel to Drawn to Life, called… wait for it… The Next Chapter. So, I know what you’re wondering: did the over-the-top creativity and innovation stop at the title?

Well, let’s look at the technical details and gameplay before we get to that. The game lets you create a hero as before, and also has a decent weapon system that gives you more power to choose how your hero will face enemies. The game remains solid looking, with plenty of detail in everything throughout the world and a visual style consistent with the original. That is appropriate, as it works well with the characters and items you can draw as well as making it reasonable for you to add color to areas as you progress. Sounds are light and fun but unspectacular.

Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter is still basically a platform-jumping game, but unlike something like New Super Mario Bros., the challenge never really takes off and you will never marvel at the level design. Story comes first in this game, with the action taking a back seat. This has a couple of implications. First off, there is no sense of progression as you work through, and no reason to ever go back to replay areas for the fun challenge.

The other implication is that while the story and story elements are not too bad, with the evil Wilfre stealing color from the world and you create a hero to accompany Mari and Jowee in their quest to restore color to the world. The problem with the attempts to make the game story feel ‘epic’ is that it starts to over-take everything! Your created hero isn’t always in the picture, the platforming elements take a back seat to the story and even disappear for a while, and there is a seemingly endless stream of dialogue text to endure.

Finally, the reality is that DS gamers are living in a post-Scribblenauts era, so the innovations of Drawn to Life have ceased being novel. Drawing your own characters is cute, but it is no longer innovative, nor is it enough to hang an entire game on. So in answer to the earlier question I posed about the creativity and innovation of Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter, the answer is that the game feels much more like an attempt to stuff someone’s idea for an adventure game story into a slightly tweaked version of the original game so they could continue to exploit its success. If there is another game, I’ll just start off by drawing a George Clooney look-alike and go from there…

SkipIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Nice ability to create and manipulate
+ Well done weapon system

Cons:
– Been there, done that
– Too much talking
– Simplistic gameplay is stale and unrewarding
– Feels dated after Scribblenauts

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on DS, also available on Wii
Publisher: THQ
Developer: 5TH Cell
Release Date: 10/27/09
Genre: Platform
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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!