|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 5th Cell||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 10, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Drawn to Life on the Nintendo DS takes a tried-and-true old school platforming formula, dusts it off the shelf, combines it with adventure elements, a cute and engaging storyline, a cool drawing system, and infuses the whole concoction with a healthy dose of creative energy. The basic underlying concept of the game is undeniably intriguing: the player acts as a stylus wielding deity who is tasked with saving a village of lovable creatures called Raposa by drawing various creations to aid them.
Rather than simply playing through the game with developer-created elements, players are allowed to generate a lot of their own content which then comes to life on the screen. It's not a perfectly executed idea, but the game is truly fun and immersive nonetheless.
As the story opens, the Raposa have fallen on hard times. Their village has been shrouded in darkness, their people have scattered to the far corners of the realm, and they have all but forsaken their creator, save for one little Raposa named Mari. Just when it seems all hope is lost, her pleas for assistance are finally answered as players take on the role of "The Creator." Using your godly powers, you imbue a dusty old mannequin with sentience and can draw its humanoid form into whatever shape or visage suits your fancy. You can make your hero have snakes or hooks for hands, give it human or animal characteristics, or even draw it as a stick figure if you like. The only major limitation is one's own imagination, though the built-in drawing program can at times prove challenging to work with when trying to get a high level of detail. Once you design a hero - or avatar if you prefer - you can then send it around the Raposa's realm to do your bidding and aid the diminutive creatures. The Raposa themselves are quite cute and easy to like. Their interactions are mostly light and humorous, but compelling enough to drive the story along.
The major gameplay elements of Drawn to Life can be broken down into three distinct sections. First and foremost, is the built-in drawing program. It's a surprisingly thorough interface where players will spend ample time concocting different versions of their hero, along with the many unique objects and items that will appear throughout the game. Aside from making your hero and different tools to help it along on its adventure, you'll be called on by the Raposa to create the sun, the night sky, buildings, vegetables - you name it.
The drawing program pops up whenever you encounter an item creation point or when you are asked to create something by one of the villagers. You can also elect to go back and re-draw or improve on your creations at almost any time in the game. In most cases, you'll be given a template for whatever particular item you're working on. From there you can pick from up to 12 total color palettes - two are available from the start and the rest must be unlocked - as well as a range of drawing tools including a three-level zoom feature, different brush sizes, fill options, erase, lock, undo, un-lockable stamps, etc. It's pretty neat to be able to doodle your own creations and watch them appear in areas of the game. The capabilities of the drawing program are pretty impressive, but the design is hampered by an overall lack of flexibility when it comes down to creating many of the actual elements themselves. Though some items give you lots of drawing room to mess around with, allowing you to come up with some pretty zany concoctions, many consist of tightly-structured templates which force the player to simply stay inside the lines. In these instances it becomes less of a drawing program and more of an interactive coloring book, though it's a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. Developers 5th Cell otherwise pull off some pretty amazing tricks when it comes to how your drawings are animated. The drawing aspect of the game is highly addictive and players will clock a lot of hours with the stylus.
Drawn to Life's other two gameplay areas are more formulaic in nature, yet they round out the package by offering a broader range of activities. The Raposa village has a visual style similar to Zelda: A Link to the Past, with a birds-eye-view of the landscape. Significant time will be spent in the village in between missions speaking with the townspeople, completing tasks for them, and dispelling the murky clouds of darkness that have threatened to choke their small civilization. Different phases of the story unfold in the village as things progress, and it also serves as a hub to connect the game's platforming levels. After awhile, running around like an errand boy gets mildly tedious. Fortunately, the endearing nature of the Raposa and their unfortunate plight lessens some of the irritability this elicits. Breaking up the story in the village is the game's third element: a variety of side-scroller platforming levels set apart at well-timed intervals.