Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter Review

By Darryl Kaye on October 26, 2009

Drawn to Life was a successful endeavour when it arrived in 2007 on the Nintendo DS, and because of its success, THQ have decided to release a sequel, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter. This time, the game is also seeing a release on the Nintendo Wii, which is being handled by Planet Moon Studios. It has a completely independent story to the Nintendo DS version and should be seen as a separate entity. Perfectly suited to the stylus on the Nintendo DS, does Drawn to Life's concept translate well to the Wii?

After thinking that things had returned to normal, the villagers start noticing that items around the town have been disappearing. They call on the Creator to help them solve their problems, and the "Hero" is created. A plot is uncovered which suggests that someone, perhaps Wilfre, is trying to gain the power of the Creator. Fearing the worst, the Hero, along with the villagers, aim to put a stop to these dastardly plans by gathering up all the Artifacts.

The story itself has a pretty decent concept, but the execution is very poor. After completing a level, the player will witness perhaps 4-5 lines of dialogue and this will give a slight bit of insight into current events, while also giving an indication about what needs to be done next. Usually though, it's rather random and of no real relevance. For example, one of the villagers suddenly needs a rose for his wedding, which fortunately happens to grow in the next area. Each of the levels has an objective associated with it, and it's usually to find something within the level. However, no searching is actually necessary in this scenario, as the items are found right next to the exit. There is a slight bit of variation on some of the levels, with a set amount of enemies needing to be defeated, or a set number of items needing to be collected - these variations hardly ever appear though. The over world is also very monotonous and doesn't really serve any purpose. It takes so long to get from one side to the other that it just gets annoying.

The gameplay resembles that of a generic 2D platformer. The player can run, jump, perform a melee attack and a jumping attack. Where Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter differentiates is with its puzzle element. There are three types of puzzle boxes which can be drawn in: static, physics and bouncy. These can be used in real time and later on, timing actually becomes quite crucial. The puzzles, as expected, start off relatively easy and initially it's a case of building a simple platform to get to a higher ledge. However, as the game progresses, the puzzles become suitably harder and some actually require more than basic thought. This does cause some problems though, as drawing specific shapes, especially in the physics box, can become troublesome.

Unlike the stylus on the DS, using the Wii Remote to draw is extremely challenging. It's often hard to actually draw even a straight line, let alone something that resembles a circle. It is made slightly easy by using the target area as a tracer, but the drawing mechanic is quite a big issue, especially for environmental elements. Every-so-often, the game will ask a player to draw an element of the scenery. Some of them are relatively simple, like a log, but drawing a helicopter is another thing entirely. Generally the game just says the object and gives the players a square box - not giving any indication about which direction the object will be facing. Fortunately it's possible to re-draw things, but overall the drawing is cumbersome and ineffective. Some elements, which are actually interactive, can really suffer from bad drawing too, since the player might draw them the wrong shape, or not how they were intended. For this reason, it's often best to just use the template, which is a shame, as the game then loses its unique selling point. However, it is nice to see user-created elements appearing throughout levels. The ones that are animated look especially good even if they do look utterly ridiculous.

The levels themselves have a design that starts off quite pleasant, but ends up deteriorating. It's generally its own fault though, as the new elements introduced, such as using claws or flying, dictate a more challenging design. It can often lead to frustration, and when the game tries to introduce different non-platforming mechanics, like driving a car, or flying a helicopter, it doesn't really feel like it adds anything. If anything, these sections, especially with the car, just suffer from a lack of polish. It's difficult to try and comprehend that this is a game targeted at a younger audience because some of the level design and puzzles actually cause the game to be quite challenging.

Graphically the game has a nice style, and it would likely be very appealing to a younger audience. The sound design is also subtle and effective, with the music providing a suitable backing track. However, there are numerous glitches present in the game. Sometimes the music just doesn't play and it's not uncommon to encounter doors that won't open despite pressing the required button. It's also possible to go completely through walls and get stuck in the scenery, meaning the level has to be restarted from scratch. It doesn't really help the game's cause.

Missions are generally quite quick to finish, as they usually take between 5-15 minutes to complete. This means that the game is actually quite short, and upon completion there isn't really much else to do. It's possible to replay levels, and re-draw all of the elements in the game, but it's not really that enthralling. There are four mini-games that can be played with two people, but they're essentially all the same and get boring after a few minutes.

Final Thoughts

Despite its valiant attempts to distinguish itself through real-time puzzle drawing and interactivity, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter ends up being a tedious platformer. The unique selling point - actually drawing elements into the game - just doesn't shine through enough and it's a shame, because the concept is really good, but the elements that made the game great on the Nintendo DS just don't translate that well over to the Wii.

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