Two years ago, Drawn to Life hit the Nintendo DS and brought with it a whole lot of potential. The game was pretty, but the bigger deal was that it allowed you to draw the main components of the platformer so that your hero and his world were uniquely your own. That said, there were still issues -- less than ideal controls, not nearly enough customization, and so on.
Sadly, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter adds a couple things to the formula and fixes the camera, but complaints remain and suck the fun out of this quirky title.
We catch up with the Raposa race after the events of the first game. Mari's the mayor, the world is a bright and cheery watercolor, and everyone's as happy as a clam. But soon a little girl goes missing, a dark portal opens up, and Wilfre arrives to begin sucking all of the color out of the world. The townspeople flee, and we're on a world-spanning journey to restore the vibrant imagery of this realm and stop a madman.
The only limit to what you create is your imagination… and the guide boxes.
In this mixed-up world where the townspeople find refuge on a city on the back of a massive turtle, you'll play as the Creator. A god to these bunny/cat-like creatures, you'll create a hero to send their way. This will be character you directly control in the overworld map and use to platform through the levels needed to save the day, but you're also going to have to create birds, ships, moving platforms, surfboards and more.
When it comes time to whip one of these things up, your touch screen will be a simple white background with some guide boxes on it -- blocks for head, torso, arms and legs for the hero; the body of a gun and the type of bullet; etc. You draw whatever you want in these areas, and the game inserts them as platforms, launchers, and wherever else they need to be inserted.
Let's make one thing clear here: this is an awesome idea. Creating my hero -- Zod -- and making him look like Bizarro Superman was some of the most fun I had in this game. When they asked me to make a weapon – there's a pistol, sword, and mace-like deal to unlock and make with the coins you collect this time around -- I promptly made a green lightsaber. Stationary platforms were the Weezer symbol, my surfboard was a pink shark, and later-level gears were insults about IGN's Media Mike. Creating your own world is an awesome, engaging feature.
The trouble is that it's not nearly used enough.
I made all of these inside jokes, and they only get used every once in a while. I used that pink shark once in the beginning of the game, and then he was gone. The Weezer platforms disappeared for a long time before popping up in the later levels. It got to the point where I felt like I was taking longer to design stuff than I was actually seeing the creations on the screen. That's not really motivating me to keep trying my best every time the stylus icon pops up.
Another problem is that these creations just don't look that good. Yes, creating really detailed and intricate stuff with the stylus is tough, but I'm talking more about how the color palettes don't even match here. Drawn to Life features this lovely watercolor theme for everything that's from the developers, but then all of my stuff are these blocks of primary color. Seems like both sides of the equation could have been tweaked to make for a more engrossing experience.
Still, that's not even close to the biggest problem when it comes to wrapping you up in this experience. These creation moments are cool, but they're buried beyond dozens and dozens of "Press A to Continue" conversations that explain this story to death. Not only did I not find the tale interesting (He's stealing the color; I got it), but every world you go to starts with the same boring, take-forever-explanation of people getting kidnapped, you arriving, and you needing to go fix everything. I get it. Let me play.
The game doesn't let you play, though. Instead if you want a clue of what's going on in the story you need to tap A after every sentence from every character to get going. This sucks and completely derails the pacing of the title. In the beginning, you'll feel like you've done nothing but read instead of actually creating or platforming. There are actually some tender moments tucked away in here – at one point a mother sings to her son as she's about to die and it tugs at your heartstrings – but you have to sift through so much drivel to get there that you will be driven to the brink of madness. By the end of Drawn to Life, I could take no more and was skipping the reams of pointless dialogue so I could actually get to the platforming.
Create or be creamed.
However, just like last time, the platforming is nothing to write home about. It's easy, uninspired, and honestly a bit boring. Levels will take you through tree-lined areas, underwater, and into lava pits, but none of it will knock your socks off. Enemies pop up and you can leap on them to kill them or attack them with one of your weapons, there are coins to collect so that you can purchase weapon upgrades and new music as well as skins, and there are color drops to collect so that you can repaint the world maps you're playing on.
You see, with Wilfre ripping the color out of areas, you'll need to collect the color drops and repaint the world before you can get to the next platforming section. Each of these areas you're painting – you rub it on the touch screen and the area fills back in with ink – costs a certain number of drops, so don't be surprised if you have to double back and replay a level for more ink.
You're just marching from the left side of the screen to the right and beating these rather elementary, waddling enemies. You can double jump and do a butt stomp, slide down hills for a kick attack, and so forth. Nothing is all that exciting.
Later in the game, you'll get the ability to morph into a blob and a spider-creature. These additions are welcome and sound cool, but they're introduced a bit late and are only used in very specific places. You can only use the slime's ability to squish through tiny holes in specific places and wall-crawling as your spider-hero is fun, but his attacks are a bit worthless. In a perfect world, you'd start this game with these abilities and use them throughout the game – without the current "spider" signs telling you when to change forms. I mean, just telling me when to use these amazing powers is a bit anticlimactic.
If you get into the game and so does a friend, you can link systems and trade each other's hero, weapon, and block creations. Other than that, there's no multiplayer to speak of, but it is cool to see what someone else came up with for the items you both use in the game.
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