Drawn to Life hasn't shown us anything too ground-breaking. It hasn't shown us astonishingly well-designed platform levels, ingenious enemies or combat, for example. In fact, the only thing it has shown us is our own lack of creativity and general level of childishness.
When invited to draw our character for the first time, we immediately drew a naked man. We challenge you not to draw anything puerile for the entirety of this game – it's impossible.
Drawing is this game's hook. It's an idea that has been used in other titles on DS, just not as comprehensively. As you journey through Drawn to Life's story, there are regular points at which you stop and take time out to doodle something. This something is then dropped in throughout the game's 2D platforming sections. So the clouds you jump onto are your own. And so is the gun you fire and the submarine you ride in underwater.
It's an idea that works incredibly well. There's something very satisfying about playing a game which has your own stamp of individuality all over it, and watching your amateur drawings brought to life on the screen. And the plot of the game – told through character conversations and cut-scenes in between the platforming – is endearing and interesting enough to hold the attention of most.
The only possible problem that becomes apparent after completing your first couple of platforming levels, is that Drawn to Life is really a game for a younger demographic. Hardly an issue if you fit into this age group, of course.
Because the 3D town section you begin in looks a little like a Zelda game and the drawing is universally fun, it's not immediately obvious. But the platforming sections are basic and at times feel like you're playing an internet flash game. Then again, the scrolls and characters you need to find in each level before you can move on are often very cunningly hidden and require your best exploration skills. And although the simple design and childish look are clearly deliberate and fit in with the interactive colouring book feel, experienced gamers will find the actual gameplay a bit uninspiring.
Anyway, back to our naked man creation. He's not actually your character as such, although you do control him. You're actually a mysterious sort known as 'The Creator', who is little more than a booming voice in the sky.
The Creator is the entity who, appropriately enough, has created the village of the Raposas – a race of cute little mice-like characters. Unfortunately, he's gone missing for a while, and in his absence the village has turned from chirpy utopia to something like a Raposa version of Hull.
Eternal darkness has moved in and, most disturbingly, a book containing all the items the village needs (sun, rain and time, for instance) has had its pages stolen. Returning a page with the sun on will restore sunlight to the village and so on. You even get to draw the sun for them – whether it looks like a traditional sun with a big smiley face, or a demented-faced black blob is up to you.
Being quite a lazy creator, the first thing you do is create a slave to do your bidding. That's where your own created character fits in. As with all of the items you get to draw later, those lacking in artistic ability can chose to bring up black outlined templates and just colour them in using hues from a well-stocked palette (new colours, patterns and items such as eyes are collectable throughout each level).
Disappointingly, some items have to bind you to a rigid template, probably in order for them to work properly in the gameworld, so you don't have the freedom to make your submarine look like something completely different, for example. But you could probably work within the shape to colour it in to look like a submersible cake.
Controlling your character, you can then move around your village and interact with the Raposas. In the village, the game mostly revolves around conversations to find out who to talk to or where to go next. It's not too exciting, but it works as a nice change of pace to the platforming. And gradually bringing the village back to life by redecorating it and moving the rescued Raposas back in is a worthy and endearing goal. You can't resist wanting to make these little mice happy by drawing them a new fountain or town hall. They're just too cute.
The game always leads you back to another platforming level, though, and it's this element that gets tiring. Levels include plenty of innovative little sections (like using the stylus to quickly mop up black goo before it forms into gloopy enemies) but none of them feel very well executed. Most enemies simply require a few bounces on the head to kill them or a few shots with a difficult-to-aim gun. And they all regenerate seconds later, so it's often tempting to just bounce over them if you're not too fussed about collecting the coins they drop.
We can imagine plenty of young gamers being completely entranced by Drawn to Life and its cutesy, storybook gameplay. As a children's title, it's successful. But the basic and stilted platforming won't win over many older, more experienced souls.
Still, they can at least have some fun drawing obscenities in place of their avatar's head. But, take it from us, even that gets tired eventually.