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NDS Review - 'Drawn to Life'

by Rusty Bailey on Oct. 9, 2007 @ 2:01 a.m. PDT

Drawn to Life takes players to the next level of interaction and creativity on the NDS. Your exact drawings populate the game, and no tedious animating or image manipulation is necessary. In other words, your drawing comes to life!

Genre: Adventure/Platformer
Publisher: THQ
Developer: 5th Cell
Release Date: September 10, 2007

With so many games out for the Nintendo DS now, it's difficult to find a title specifically tailored for the DS' unique touch-screen features. We've had some gems, like Kirby: Canvas Curse, but others just haven't lived up to their potential. Developer 5th Cell brings us Drawn to Life, an adventure/platformer title that allows players to create their own heroes and craft the levels to fit their own imaginations — all using the power of the stylus.

In Drawn to Life, you take on the role of a god-like "Creator." Your loyal followers, the Raposas, live in a town that has been overtaken by darkness, which was created by an evil denizen. The townsfolk call on you to create a hero to battle this darkness and bring their world out of turmoil.

Cue the virtual canvas. The first thing you'll be asked to draw is your main character. You can choose from a variety of pre-made heroes, but Drawn to Life is focused on creativity, so why not make your own? Using a layout that maps where the arms, legs, torso and head should be, you get to draw and color your character. You can watch it run in the top screen as it's being drawn so you can see the animations and know if you're sketching the correct body proportions.

It is truly great to see your creations come to life, although you won't see any intricate movement from your heroes. Their repertoire mostly consists of platforming essentials like running, jumping and butt-stomping, but these moves do add depth to the game, which is exactly what the developers hope will keep you coming back for more.

Once you've created your character, you must embark on your journey to rid the world of its darkness. You'll go through each stage with the objective of rescuing three Raposas and finding four template pages that belong to the Book of Life. Every time you find the pages and complete a stage, you are called upon to create something essential for the townsfolk, such as crops, rain or a sun. You also need to clear Shadow Goo throughout each stage by rubbing the stylus over it.

What makes each stage so fun is creating a small portion of it on your own, thereby making the game a unique experience for every player. There are two different ways to create: coloring and stencils. You simply color pre-planned shapes; when you have to color a whale, you can be creative, but it won't look like anything other than a whale. However, with stencils, a shape forms your boundaries, but you can draw whatever you like. You'll be asked to draw clouds and other platforms on which to walk, or leaves and debris that can look however you want them to look. You can even create an entire Suessian world, if you'd like.

The controls will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played any platformer. You're still jumping on bad guys' heads, butt-stomping and coin collecting, just like you've been doing for years. Throw in a projectile weapon that changes with the theme of the stages, and you've got yourself a decent platformer. Unfortunately, Drawn to Life controls simpler than your common Mario title, and similarly, the level layout is also very straightforward. The enemies are extremely easy, and the game is generally a breeze. If and when you do get hurt by a baddie, extra health is usually just around the corner.

In between each stage, you'll be walking around the overworld and helping the villagers. This usually consists of simply talking to them to progress the story, but the main part is drawing objects for the town and clearing darkness from it. One of the first things you draw is a sun so that you can bring them out of the continuous winter they've been having. You'll also need to tap some of the dark clouds surrounding the town to expose more areas to explore. Aside from drawing, these tasks are tedious, and you'll want to rush through so you can get back to saving more Raposas.

The graphics are nothing above what the Game Boy Advance was capable of, and by no means do they push the limits of the Nintendo DS. However, the graphics really fit the simple style of the game. No matter how good you may think your artistic skills are, your creations will not look like masterpieces, although the creation tools are sufficient enough for you to generate a character who may look like one the developers may have put together.

The main thing you must remember is that Drawn to Life is a game aimed toward kids, so the story, gameplay and characters are very simple. However, where the developers put their main focus — the creation aspect — is where every age group will be able to enjoy the title. You're allowed to make the game your own by generating a hero and world completely from your imagination. Granted, it's a love-it-or-hate-it game, where if you like art, you'll enjoy it, but if you absolutely hate drawing, this probably isn't the game for you.

It seemed 5th Cell had the right idea with Drawn to Life, and they are definitely moving in a positive direction. The drawing is spot-on, and if they could clean up the platforming, make a more intricate plot and present us with characters we care about, they could have a true classic on their hands. Drawn to Life is good on its own, but it gives the impression that it's the first step to something greater.

Score: 7.5/10

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