Drawn to Life

Drawn to Life is a generic platformer developed by Fifth Cell, and published by THQ for the DS, best known for its strange gimmick. In the end, it's nothing more than that: a gimmick. When that is taken away, and the game is left to stand on its own merits, it doesn't really have a leg to stand on.

The gimmick in question is the ability for the player to draw their own playable character, weapons, and other features such as platforms. Never does this ever have any actual effect on gameplay. It only changes things visually, and sometimes not even in significant ways. Some objects, such as your weapons, are too small to even make out any details you might put on your creations. Unlike some games like Magic Pengel, there is no reward or sense of satisfaction to be gleemed from spending more time on your creations. There is no difference gameplay-wise between spending 15 minutes on a fully-shaded, fully-realized masterpiece, and spending 15 seconds filling in the canvas with solid colors with the paint bucket.

Peel away the thin gimmick on the surface, and you'll see that there is no depth to this game. The game is a very standard 2-D platformer where you jump through levels to get to the goal. For some reason, the level designers felt it neccesary to complicate matters by setting up every stage like a maze, with branching paths you must take to find different objects before you can move on. This worked in games like Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night because as you explored, you opened up new areas to explore and learned new moves, gained new weapons. Here, it's just a chore that impedes you from moving forwards periodically. It's just annoying to have to backtrack through a section just because you passed over a branching path without realising it.

Most telling of the flawed nature of the exploration, is that you will often accidenly find what are intended to be secret items while looking for the regular items. By the end of the game, I was missing only 4 of 64 secrets, and I wasn't even trying to collect them.

There are also a few vehicle segments, and they are completely useless. Sometimes it's said that an easy game plays itself, but most of these segments don't even require you to press any buttons to get through them.

The game can be frustrating at times, particularly for bosses, but rather than being from any legitimate challenge, the game is sabotaged by bad controls, bad programming, and a bad camera. That's right: a bad camera in a 2-D platformer. It's centered on the player, instead of showing mostly ahead of you, and your sprite is quite large, especially in later stages where your sprite actually gets even bigger. What this means is that you can be blindsided by enemies you can't see off-screen. Even worse, while you can't hit enemies off-sceen, off-screen enemies can sometime attack you! It also suffers from "Leap of Faith Syndrome", as you never know when jumping down to a lower level whether you'll land safely, on an enemy, or just fall into a bottomless pit. The game is full of problems: jumping is inconsistant, sometimes you'll fall off of platforms for no good reason, hit detection is bad in certain places, and aiming is awkward.

To be fair, the music is at least decent. It's not something one would listen to on its own, but it fits the game nicely. Graphics are cartoony, cute, and colorful, as well, but the things drawn by the player often become pixelated when implemented into the game.

There is also a story that, while somewhat interesting, has some strange religious overtones. You play as GOD (or as the game calls it, "The Creator,") drawing objects and heroes to save a village of rabbit-like creatures called Raposa from an evil encrouching shadow. The story has some interesting points, but some plot threads are left hanging until the very end, and some don't get resolved at all. Most of the plot takes place in the village hub area, and acts as a framing device to the stages. The village is explored from an overhead perspective between levels, but there's not much to do except walk around, and talk to the villagers you rescue in the levels (who don't usually have much to say.) The tasks you're made to perform in the village usually consist of running from point A to point B and back again, and it quickly becomes tedious.

Some people seem to think that this game's gimmick is enough to raise it above the other dreck released for the DS, and make it stand out. But the gimmick is so paper-thin and affects so little, so that certainly isn't true. It's not as if it aimed to be anything more than a gimmick, and it achieves exactly what it aims for. It could be forgiveable if the platforming segments were solid, but as it is, the game is just another bad platformer.