Reviewed: November 27, 2007
Released: September 11, 2007
5th Cellís Drawn to Life is your typical 2D platformer with a unique twist: the playerís ability to literally create things in the game world by simply drawing them in. Playing as the Creator of a world populated by the rabbit-like Raposas, you have your work cut out for you, as one meddlesome Raposa has gotten it into his head that he can take the Book of Life and redraw everything in it to suit his own nefarious ends.
Fortunately for the Raposas, though, you are armed with your handy dandy DS stylus, and you have the power to recreate what the villain has destroyed, as well as the ability to create a hero to act on your behalf in the game world.
As you might have already guessed, certainly the most interesting and innovative feature of Drawn to Life is the drawing aspect. Your hero himself (or herself, though the game seems to refer to the main character as male, regardless), as well as many objects that youíll come across as you play, will be created and fully customized by you, the player. This includes everything from your heroís weapon to platforms youíll be jumping on, as well as buildings in town and modes of transportation.
Drawn to Life provides a fairly intuitive and simple paint program that includes three levels of zoom (which can be especially useful if you really want to get in there and draw your sprites pixel-by-pixel), several swappable color palettes (some of which must be unlocked before they can be used), several brush sizes, a flood fill tool, and a stamp tool that allows you to stamp on unlocked textures and features (such as eyes or hair) if you would prefer not to draw them from scratch. If youíre a perfectionist, it can be a bit of a challenge to place each pixel exactly as you want it, but as it is, the paint program allows you to get a pretty close approximation of whatever you feel like drawing Ė and it doesnít look bad in-game, either.
While there are some limitations as to what you can create, you will often be able to freely exercise your imagination. For instance, the game might ask you to create a cloud platform for jumping on, but itíll simply give you a box in which the cloud must be drawn, and if a cloud sounds too boring for your tastes, you could easily draw, say, a hamburger instead of the cloud the game requested. Itís all up to you.
For those of you who arenít artistically inclined, though, thereís no need to worry. The game provides some templates that can be traced, used as bases for modification, or even used as-is; and a few objects have set outlines and simply need to be colored as you choose. This may disappoint some players that would have liked to draw in a dinosaur in place of a rocket ship, but at least the game generally offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to decoration.
Amusing customizations aside, however, Drawn to Life is pretty standard when it comes to actual gameplay. Besides the occasional jaunt within the RPG-esque overworld-style Raposa village to chat with a citizen or deliver an item, most of the game involves your hero traveling to sidescroller-style worlds outside of town, requiring your animated hero to run, hop, collect coins, slide, and jump on enemyís heads a la Mario or any number of other similar titles. A few other abilities, such as flying or shooting snowballs, have been thrown in here and there for novelty during particular levels, though not all abilities stick with you throughout the game.
While itís not particularly original, level design isnít bad, but there isnít a whole lot to hold an experienced platform gamerís attention. Being able to draw parts of the game world as you progress helps dissipate the formulaic monotony a little, but even that eventually gets a little repetitive at times.
Slightly trickier are the boss battles at the end of each of the three worlds. They are challenging relative to the rest of game, but the increased difficulty level is partially due to slightly awkward design and a lack of intuitiveness. Nonetheless, the boss fights break up the ordinary platform levels a little and add a bit of welcome action to the game.
The visuals in Drawn to Life are generally made up of pleasantly cutesy and cartoonishly animated 2D sprites, much like those youíd normally see in many console-style RPGs Ė besides the graphics that you draw yourself, of course. And, as I mentioned earlier, the gameís paint program actually does a pretty good job in allowing players to draw what they want and translating them into game world objects.
The best part is that the software brings these drawings to life after youíve made them, animating the hero youíve drawn with comical little antics, growing vines that youíve doodled into giant beanstalks, and flying the zeppelins that youíve painted. Drawn to Lifeís graphical aspect Ė partially because of its customizability Ė is definitely something that makes the game more fun.
The sound effects, music, and vocal tracks are all fairly standard fare and are, like the graphics, appropriately cutesy and cartoonish. The cheerful soundtrack doesnít particularly stand out, but itís relatively pleasant as background music.
At the standard DS game price of $29.99, Drawn to Life offers a reasonably lengthy adventure with enough unlockables Ė including special moves, game music tracks, stamps for the paint program, and other goodies Ė to keep collect-happy players satiated for quite some time.
Although itís clearly geared toward younger gamers, Drawn to Life offers an entertaining new spin on the classic sidescroller formula that can appeal to older players, as well. Something of a bizarre mash-up between a classic 2D platformer and a coloring book, it may not be perfect, but itís a fun and innovative title that makes great use of the DSís unique capabilities and that will hopefully grow into a continuing franchise that builds on this strong start.