Drawn to Life: The Next ChapterESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: 5th Cell
Creation swapping through multi-card play
A recipient of critical acclaim at this year’s E3, Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter has hit stores in time for the holiday season. The main draw of the game is the ability to create your own character using the DS stylus. Get it? Get it? The main draw? Boy am I funny. Ahem, Let’s continue on where I’ll “outline” how this game plays.
The Next Chapter has a cartoony / anime look. Personally I’m not the biggest fan of this art style but it should appeal to anime fans and younger players alike. The perspective changes from that of a quasi-isometric (think 2.5D) during the adventure portions to a side scrolling perspective during platforming sections. Both perspectives serve their purposes adequately.
The environments really come to life when colour is restored to them. This shows off their rich detail and colour palette. There’s a rather good amount of detail considering the DS platforms limitations. The plentiful cut scenes use the in-game engine as well and look good. On a bit of a more negative note, occasionally I found it difficult to tell when I was in control and when I wasn’t. I also found that the characters on-screen were a touch too small and similar looking which made it hard for me to distinguish between them.
The Next Chapter performs adequately in the sound category as well. The soundtrack is actually quite good. I normally get bored of music in games because I often find a lot of them repetitive, but that wasn’t the case for me with this game. Given the DS platform, you’re left with having to read all dialogue since there is no voice acting. For the most part, dialogue and text is relatively short.
The Next Chapter is a hybrid of adventure and platforming games. When the villain Wilfre steals all of the colour out of the world the game’s characters ask the Creator (you) to send them a hero (also you) to confront Wilfre and restore order to their world. Acting as the Creator you get to draw the character that will act as the hero. The drawing is actually quite clever in that there are specific boxes to draw the head, body and limbs of the hero. It is very clear for a younger child to do and allows for as much or as little detail as you want. The game smartly also offers a default drawing for those that may be artistically challenged like myself. These boxes are also what allow the game to identify key character parts and animate them. It’s kind of fun at first. If you want to spend the time, the amount of detail you can create is impressive. There is a good colour palette to choose from and many tools that you would see in a program like Paint for Windows.
With the hero created players are plopped into a top down, almost Zelda like viewpoint of the world where the story plays out. There really isn’t much free movement. You are mostly guided where to go by the NPC’s. This certainly helps younger players keep on track through the game though. Around the world you will find various spots that lead to the game’s platforming areas. The actual platforming is rather basic compared to other games out there and it acts more as a means to collect colour tokens and coins. Colour tokens are then used to add colour back into the game world with each area having a certain cost of tokens to do so.
Often throughout the game you will be asked to draw objects or weapons that help during the platforming elements. Like when the hero is created, there is an auto-draw option if the player does not want to take the time to draw something out. I’m a fan of giving the player options so I appreciate this feature, but considering the customization is a big part of the game I strongly encourage players to take the time to actually be creative and draw something out.
Another good feature is the ability to change the look of your hero at any time during the game. Sadly I couldn’t find a way to save multiple games. This may be an issue if more than one person wants to share and play the game at the same time.
I should also note that I found the story a bit hard to follow. Perhaps it was because I found the character models too similar to one another and hard to tell apart. Often I would have to make sure to read the name of who was talking in the text box to make sure I knew who was who.
Not having played the original, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter was a novel experience for me. I love the idea of integrating user generated content into the game and gameplay, but after a while the novelty wore off (for me anyways). While no single portion of the game is “best in class”, the sum of the parts is respectable. Kids will love the ability to add their own generated content into the game and in the end most will have fun with this game..