Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter Preview: Wii-DrawnS

Before they made E3 critical darling Scribblenauts, a group of developers made Drawn To Life, a DS game with a user-illustrated hero. Now another team is bringing a sequel to the Wii.

The introduction of the Wii remote has birthed far fewer games that involve writing and drawing than we all might have expected when the controller was introduced a few years ago. Where's the Mario Paint Wii game again? We'll save that for another post.

Enter the Wii debut of Drawn To Life.

What Is It?
Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter is a Wii (and DS) sequel slated to launch this fall from THQ. While the original DTL development studio 5th Cell is handling the DS sequel, the Wii debut is being made by Planet Moon. Like the DS original, the game is a side-scroller that lets the user draw their hero as well as key decorative and usable items and objects in the game world: think flowers, floating platforms and attachable flapping wings. The Wii game is said to be a storyline sequel to the original game.

What We Saw
The DS sequel was absent from THQ's holiday showcase in New York this week, but I was able to play part of a side-scrolling level of the Wii version which introduced the game's core gameplay features. The THQ rep helping us illustrated our characters to look like a hot dog with legs.

How Far Along Is It?
The game is set for a fall release. I played the E3 build.

What Needs Improvement?
Un-steady Hands: It's either me or the game, but one of us does not have a steady enough hand to draw pretty things. Oh, that would be me? The DS Drawn To Life asked me to draw with a stylus pressed onto the handheld's screen. That's fine even for a person of limited artistic skill. The Wii game asked me to draw by moving the Wii remote, which is kind of like asking me to write on a chalk board while standing six feet away from it (if that would magically make chalk appear on the board – you get the idea). The problem is that the distance and the lack of physical feedback makes it hard to accurately draw what you think you're drawing, even though the game does allow you to zoom in to the pixel level. Perhaps, with practice, I will be able to draw more precisely, but I hope the game allows for customizable sensitivity settings for those of us who don't have the hands of a surgeon. Or, maybe they could bundle the game with an Wii Easel? Wiisel?

Blank Canvas: The DS game wasn't chock-full of on-screen action – no hordes of enemies to shoot and jump on — but it was a DS game. While the visual style of Drawn To Life has translated nicely to the Wii, the level I saw felt too tranquil for what I or even the young target audience might want out of a console game. On a bigger screen, I expect bigger and more action. Hopefully later levels provide that.

No Online Sharing: I had hoped that players would be able to send each other their drawn elements for the game. The THQ rep said that feature is not planned. Too bad.

Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter Preview: Wii-DrawnS

What Should Stay The Same?
The Old Drawing Mechanics: The basic concept of Drawn To Life is still a big winner. Not only does the Wii game allow the player to draw their hero (and re-assign where limbs attach to torso). It still presents those great moments of confronting the player with the sudden need to draw some sort of floating platform to get to the next level. Do you pause and go with a boring default cloud? Do you do as I did with the DS game and make the platform a floating word? Do you make that platform a bunch of Mario bricks? And what do you do when prompted to draw the flowers? Or the bees? And as soon as you move on and forget what you draw, you come across another instance of it. The levels feel like you drew them because, partially, you did.

The New Drawing Mechanics: The Wii and DS games are adding Action Drawing, which allows the player to draw directly into the games' levels, instead of pausing and working on a virtual canvas screen. In the Wii version I was confronted with a few gaps for my hero to traverse. All allowed me to draw into a box in those gaps, using a finite amount of ink. One instance permitted me to use Sticky Ink, which let the line I drew serve as a floating platform. Another allowed Physical Ink, which made the line I drew drop to the ground as if it had weight. In that instance I needed to draw boxes to climb over. There is also bouncy ink, which I didn't see. The options seem like a fun addition.

Final Thoughts
Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter takes a quality DS game to its inevitable Wii expansion. While I would like to see more action and improved sharing options, what I'm seeing is at least a step forward for the franchise. The new ideas are welcome. I just hope my hands are good enough for this one.

(The game also includes multi-player mini-games, but I did not see them.)