Color by Numbers
When it first launched a few years ago, Drawn To Life offered a revolutionary take on player-created content by letting you doodle up your own hero from scratch and drop him into an exuberant world filled with furry critters who needed a helping hand. As if watching your hand-drawn character come to life and prance through the game’s platforming areas wasn’t entertaining enough, you also had the freedom to sketch up dozens of objects that would then appear in the curious little world.
The clever and innovative formula was fun the first time around, and it certainly showcased the level of creativity possible with the DS’ stylus interface, but it loses some of its impact the second time around. Developer 5th Cell has fine-tuned many aspects of the game design for Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter. While this sequel is a tighter game in most regards, it mostly just delivers more of the same cute, kid-friendly, scribble-happy experience found in the first title. The more noticeable improvements are welcome ones, although they’re not entirely focused on areas that could have benefited the most from a little extra attention.
Once again, you’ll jump into the role of The Creator – a deity who drew the world to life and now watches over the well-being of the furry humanoid creatures, called Raposa, who live there. Having helped the critters stamp out the inky darkness spreading across the land in the first adventure, you’re called upon once again when all of the color mysteriously begins draining from the world. Seeking refuge on a giant floating turtle island, our old Raposa pals Mari and Jowee lead the remaining villagers on a globetrotting quest to save the world with the help of your mighty stylus skills and your earth-bound avatar hero. The story in The Next Chapter flows more smoothly now that the adventuring portions take you well beyond the humble forest where the original village once stood.
As the tale progresses, your hero avatar and his furry cohorts will run into a handful of strange Raposa colonies that suffer from unusual issues that tie directly into the plot and the unexpected twist that unfolds later in the game. Locations like the flowing village of Watersong, the subterranean mining colony of Lavasteam, and the futuristic Galactic Jungle are among other hub areas that house groupings of like-themed platforming levels to dive into. Large portions of each village have been drained of color, and you’ll have to re-paint structures in order to open new platforming stages and help the citizens overcome their problems. To this aim, bottles of rainbow ink scattered throughout the game become increasingly important items to collect. Once you’ve amassed enough of the stuff, you can spend it to scribble color back into the world. While it’s an interesting idea, this oversimplified painting mechanic doesn’t add much in terms of gameplay.
Thanks to reams of dialogue and frequent breaks in the action to progress the plot, the adventuring and story portions will easily occupy as much of your time as the short platforming stages that are the meat of Drawn To Life. Here, you’ll guide your hand-crafted avatar to run, jump, and battle its way through 2D levels. Like in the original, most levels have special blank spots that let you access the drawing program to design different objects that will appear in the game, like platforms, spinning gears, weapons, vehicles, and other items. Other than a few new elements that have been woven into this aspect of the gameplay, the core platforming experience in the game is largely untouched.
Further along in the game, your avatar will learn how to change into a blob form that lets it squeeze through small passageways as well as a spider form that can climb walls, shoot webs, and swing around. Both are cool updates that add another much-needed level of complexity to the sometimes too-basic platforming. In addition to these newfound powers, money you’ve accumulated can be spent on unlocking three weapon types (a blaster, sword, and yo-yo thing) that you’ll get to draw and equip. As with your blob and spider abilities, you can switch between these tools at any time in the platforming stages once you’ve acquired them. Some levels also feature new puzzle sections that give you a shot a doodling-in the missing platforms needed to get you to the exit – albeit with a small amount of ink and other drawing limitations to work within.
One major area of improvement that’s easy to overlook is the slew of upgrades that have been made to the game’s built-in drawing program itself. With some patience, you have a lot more flexibility to craft some truly impressive character and object designs. For starters, the color palette is beefed-up to 64 colors (more than double from the first game) and there are more tools at your disposal.
A paint airbrush lets you blend colors together, you can lock out colors so you can’t accidentally draw over them, and there’s even a dropper tool to select from colors you’ve already laid down. And that’s not even the best part: you can add extra limbs and change the size of your character’s proportions. That means you can have a giant, hammerhead hero with four arms and three legs if you feel like it.
Even with almost limitless freedom to scrawl stuff to your heart’s content, opportunities to draw new in-game elements don’t really pop-up as frequently as you’d hope. That might be a good thing, if you’re artistic abilities are lacking, but the implementation of the fun creation aspect feels unnecessarily light this time around. When you do wind up drawing things, they’re not always terribly new either – a lot of sketches tend to be platform-related items.
Fans of the original game will appreciate the nice visual updates and other minor changes found in The Next Chapter, even if the overall experience isn’t drastically different. This sequel is worth sticking with to it’s conclusion to wrap up the story between the two games. It’s a cute and sometimes touching tale that’s light on challenge but heavy on charm.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The watercolor-esque overworld visuals are simply beautiful, and other areas also show marked improvement. 3.6 Control
Switching between the stylus to draw and the D-pad and other buttons to play is still a bit cumbersome. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s some nice-but-limited voice work woven in to boost the audio. 3.9
The story and adventure has greater cohesion and continuity, which is balanced by the fact the platforming gameplay is still on the bland side
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.