Review by GrandTheftPikmin
The long drawing arm of the law
Difficulty level: Easy.
Approximate amount of time to beat: 8 Hours
Chances are if you're reading this review, you've already heard of the gimmick behind the game, which is that you can draw and color various objects (including your very own hero) in this 2D platforming game with the DS stylus, and they'll actually be part of the game's environment. The good thing about this gimmick is that it's done well, and while I won't stop calling a gimmick, it's at least a fun one that helps drive the game forward. Your drawings and colorings can be anything you desire, regardless of naughtiness or copyright infringement. However, it defeats the purpose, and a lot of the fun, if all you do is just write "Gun" or "Cloud" instead of actually drawing them. But it should be pretty obvious that your enjoyability of the gimmick, and most of the game as a result, is entirely reliant on how much you can amuse yourself, whether it's with a sly sense of humor (drawing a screen door on your submarine), an artistic desire to copy pop culture objects into your game (mixing and matching video game icons), or an immature and raunchy sense of humor (I'll let you think of an example).
The story starts off with a very simple storybook introduction to the game's world, but then it quickly gets you directly involved into the main story. In fact, one the most surprising aspects of the game is how good the storytelling is, since the plot is well paced and established, the most important characters are given their moments in the spotlight, and some of the story's moments are surprisingly poignant. The story eventually comes down to a quaint and touching finish, thanks to the fact that the game established its characters finely over the game time and made some bittersweet choices for the end.
The plot is essentially that you're "the Creator", sworn to protect a village full of rabbit-eared Raposas from a rebellious dark Raposa who spread darkness throughout the land through evil shadows. He also stole pages from the village's own Book of Life, which represents the village's structure and livelihood, and strewn them across the land (yes, this is basically fantasy storytelling 101). The villagers, angered by the total lack of atmosphere, started leaving, only to be captured by the evil shadow monsters. As the Creator, it's up to you to create a hero out of a mannequin, and then control it as it fights the shadows, finds the pages, saves the Raposas, and becomes a social keystone in the village's community.
The platforming levels are relatively simple. When you get into the groove of it, it becomes quite obvious where all the Raposas, secrets, and templates are, and there's always a way to backtrack if you realize you missed something. When I was playing, I didn't have to replay a single level because I got everything in my first go, so don't expect it to be a difficult ordeal. As simple as the levels can be, they are very polished and include enough variety in level design and diversions. Most levels even have their own unique new thing to draw or color, whether they're special blocks or buttons of some kind, scenery, or modes of transportations. This also helps alleviate any possible repetition.In between levels, you return to the town to give the mayor the page you acquire from the previous level, and get to do a few things around town. Occasionally, the activities you have to do in town can get a little "fetch quest"-y and overlong, but usually they're short and simple goals that help push the story forward without intruding on the actual gameplay too much. Like I said, the storytelling is impressive and it mostly takes place in town, so even when the activities are a bit much they still add to the game.
It doesn't have any particular replay value unless you really get into drawing the items of your town and the levels, in which case there are plenty of things to draw, and various palettes and textures for you to buy so you can edit everything you want to your exact specifications, you control freak. Even then though, the levels are simple enough so that replaying them doesn't have much worth except to get the money to buy what you want. This will definitely appeal to fans of highly customizable games like Animal Crossing, but those who only liked the idea for its novelty, it doesn't offer much after its first playthrough.
Overall, its use of the stylus to allow for a relatively configurable 2D platforming world is clever enough to merit checking out, but won't offer much in the long run. The idea is executed very well though, and the platforming gameplay is polished and enjoyable. All this and the impressive storytelling suggests that grander projects from 5th Cell might be worth looking forward too. Until then, this is a relatively enjoyable game.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Drawn to Life (US, 09/10/07)
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