Hands on with THQ's cute DS sketcher, Drawn to Life

Can you see what it is yet?

Hands on with THQ's cute DS sketcher, Drawn to Life
| Drawn to Life

The most freedom you usually get to create an in-game character is choosing between shiny pieces of armour, hair tone, and gender. THQ hopes to releases those shackles with Drawn to Life, an innovative game that has you drawing your character from scratch.

Shown at Nintendo's summer preview event, we checked out nearly complete version of the game and drew some positive conclusions.

Drawn to Life could easily be just another action-platform game. You take control of an unnamed hero who must confront a shadowy evil that's ravaged a quaint village of rabbit people called the Raposas. Across four distinct worlds, it's your job to collect the templates stolen by the shadows and redraw the village.

And this is how Drawn to Life distinguishes itself – you get to draw the weapons, the items, and the hero you play. The game offers total freedom to draw whatever you want. The only confines are the collision-detection bounding boxes that your artistic creations have to reside inside.

Stylus in hand, your first task is to draw a character. Drawn to Life features a user-friendly editor with 25 different colours, several drawing tools and zoom functionality for tweaking individual pixels. The amount of detail that can be created using the editor is remarkable, as we saw with some of the pre-drawn characters.

But if your drawing skills aren't so hot, there's no reason to fret. The game doesn't penalise you for scribbling stick figures with misshapen limbs; on the contrary, that's what Drawn to Life is all about. Of course, you can utilise the templates that ship with the game, but the real fun is to draw your own stuff.

You'll be able to create and save up to three heroes (or heroines) on a single cartridge. And connecting wirelessly with others who have the game, you can swap templates, characters, and self-drawn items. There isn't any multiplayer component beyond data trading, but at least you'll be able to share your creations.

So the drawing is great, but Drawn to Life promises more than touchscreen scrawling, with over a dozen levels spread across four worlds. We played one level out of the aquatic world that took place on the shores of a tropical island. The gameplay is straightforward, with you working through 2D side-scrolling levels, and hopping on enemies to dispatch them.

Before jumping into the level however, the game prompted us to draw a weapon specifically for use in the aquatic world. Labelled the 'star-zooka,' we had free range to create whatever we wanted, as long as it fit within the confined drawing space. Naturally, we drew a little 'Pocket Gamer' icon, but no matter what you draw, the weapon functions the same, so throughout the demonstration we fired a fully loaded PG-emblazoned star-zooka.

At certain points during levels, the game also prompts you to draw the items needed to progress. For example, in the level we played, the objective was to trace around a clam required for moving forward. Other levels include drawing submarines or boats. And whether you're creating a new item or just fancy mixing up your hero's get-up, you can switch to the editor anytime during play, and alterations are instantly applied.

All-in-all, Drawn to Life is shaping up to be one of DS' most innovation games. Indeed, our only concern is that it could focus so heavily on the drawing mechanic that the core platform-action gameplay could end up a side note.

At least, we shouldn't have long to find out: Drawn to Life is penciled in for a summer release in the US, with European exposure expected in the autumn.