Drawn To Life: DS Side-Scrollers Get Creative

Guest Post

It’s been crazy here in Oxford, Mississippi, with football season going full tilt. In fact, for three weeks straight the restaurant has been slammed with hungry game fans waiting to get their eat on.

Unfortunately, this means I’ve had little time to get my game on. What with all that cooking… Still, I’ve had some time to play some games, especially with my trusty DS always nearby. In fact, lately I’ve been able to play something that allows me to be creative while still going to town on an old-school side-scrolling platformer. Well, old-school at heart anyway.

And what tiny cartridge ’o joy is this? Just THQ’s little bundle of goodness, Drawn to Life

When I stop and consider how Drawn to Life first popped into being as an idea, I imagine a conversation that went something like this:

A: “So what new ideas do we have?”

B: “Well…. You remember how side-scroller platformers were always so fun?”

A: “Yeah… They’re great.”

C: “We think we should do something like that. Only… Change it up a bit.”

A: “Change it how?”

B: “Well… We were thinking we could take advantage of the touch screen on the DS…”

C: “Exactly! Like say… We let them draw in the game.”

B: “Well… They don’t draw the whole game… But parts of the game…”

C: “Like the things they have to jump on.”

B: “Or climb.”

C: “Or weapons!”

B: “Or even their own hero!”

A: “A side-scroll platformer where the player has to draw parts of the environment and even their own hero? That’s genius! Now when the main character annoys them, they only have themselves to blame!” *insert maniacal laughter here*

Okay, so I may have let my imagination get away with me there, but honestly, who doesn’t imagine video game execs sitting behind a desk with their fingers tented like Mr. Burnes uttering the infamous “Excellent…” every now and again???

Right… Maybe it is just me.

But all that is beside the point. The point here is that Person A is right. This idea is genius. Who’s going to turn down the chance to draw their own little digitized hero and equip him with their own unique style of weapons?

Certainly not I. No… I was so excited by this idea that I picked up the game the day it hit the shelves. It was a choice of impulse and not one I shall regret any time soon.

Getting home and opening the case was like a mini-Christmas for me. No kidding! All the artist in me could think is: “This is amazing!”

Popping the cartridge in and powering up the DS, I waited for the game to boot up and was greeted with a little intro that asked me to draw the world, forests and the people of the game explaining that the world and all the things in it had been created by “The Creator.” The intro also explains that since the creation the world had been drawn into darkness and the only one who can help is a hero sent by The Creator and then asks that the hero be drawn.

Now, here’s where some people might think, “Great, all I can draw is stick man.” Not to worry, for this at least the game gives you a few templates to work off of. Don’t rely on the entire game to be like this, however. There are some things you’ll have to free-hand.

Once past the initial creation of the game, your hero finds themself in a village filled with dark clouds. “Now wait!” you’re probably thinking. This village looks nothing like a side-scroller. Well, you’d have me there. The village is the only place in the game that operates like an RPG- or adventure game-style place. It’s here that you’ll deal with the villagers, slowly bring the village back and, well, this is the place you have to save. Let’s just go with that.

But the rest of the game is level after level of side-scrolling goodness.

So, what’s the point of the game? Essentially, your newly drawn hero navigates through these levels rescuing trios of Raposa (the villagers) and collecting torn pieces of book pages. Returning the Raposa brings life back to the village. Collecting the pages gives you, er… The Creator, the means to re-create items that the Raposa need. These items are varied and include anything from the sun, to a flame, to a plant. Oh yes, and of course you’re asked to deal with the darkness, whether it be in one of the levels or just clearing another section of it from the village to reveal something else that may be of use to the Raposa.

Story-wise, there’s not a great deal of complexity to this game. It’s pretty simple: Save the village. There is a bit more depth to it than that, but if you’re really that curious play the game.

Honestly, this game doesn’t need a high level of storytelling. Much like the Mario or Sonic games, the point is the fun you’re going to have playing it. And if you were one of those kids who – like me – played Mario to death, I believe you’ll enjoy this. I’m still working my way through the game and enjoying every minute of it.

Oh yes, that’s right. I’m still working through it. Fun this game is. Devastatingly easy it is not. But let’s be honest with ourselves. If all those old side-scrollers had been easy, we wouldn’t have enjoyed them nearly as much. Sooner or later we would have tossed our controllers aside – not in frustration at a difficult boss only to return later – but in boredom.

Chances are you’ll set this game down and walk away when one of the levels becomes annoying to get past. But chances are also pretty high that you’ll come back later, determined to kick that pesky boss’s ass or to get across those annoyingly moving platforms.

And chances are extremely good you’ll come back to see what kind of weapon, gear or vehicles you’re going to draw next. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the real charm of this game. THQ did something magical here. They took something that’s been working for a long time now and gave it to us in shiny new packaging with extra features that only a Scrooge couldn’t love.

Simply put, this game is fun. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s what I look for in a game. The fun.

System: Nintendo DS

Developed by 5TH Cell

Produced by THQ

Released September 2007