If you've ever had an interest in art and drawing, then you might find the concept of Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter intriguing. A follow-up to 2007's DS-exclusive Drawn to Life, The Next Chapter is a 2D platformer that lets you draw objects and characters right into the game using the Wii Remote. While the results are rudimentary, the drawing tool lets you create just about anything you can think of, either from scratch or with the aid of templates. This creative aspect may be appealing, but the game doesn't do a good job of capitalising on that appeal, and instead delivers a forgettable adventure.
Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter's main appeal is undoubtedly its drawing tool, which allows you to customise specific objects whenever you spot an easel. Want your health items to be biscuits instead of the usual heart icons? Then draw one, and have it appear throughout the entire game. This also applies for special platforms, floating logs, springboards, and pretty much every other interactive item, which you create when you're first introduced to them. While adding your personal touch to an object's appearance is appealing, it won't change how effective the object is or how your hero interacts with it. Still, creating objects is a rewarding way to customise your experience, and the process of creating objects and seeing them in the game is a real treat.
Drawn to Life uses a simple graphics editor that lets you draw freehand and add basic shapes and lines to create objects. The first task you're given is to create your hero, who can be anything from a simple stick figure to a punk Queen Victoria. While you can zoom in for more detailed work, pointing the Wii Remote at your TV to draw with is imprecise at best, and it's practically impossible to create pixel-perfect drawings. Additionally, the amount of time it takes to load the tool makes the switch jarring. Despite these limitations, creating countless objects from your imagination never ceases to be amusing, especially when you veer away from the recommended suggestion, such as by pinning a Gibson Flying V onto your hero instead of a monkey's tail. There are also templates for every object if you're feeling uninspired, and you can unlock additional ones by collecting templates as you play and then purchasing them at a shop. This wide range of items means that there's plenty of replay value once you've finished the story if you want to collect everything, or prefer detailed templates to rough, hand drawn creations.
While the drawing tool is a neat way to jazz up the look of the game, the adventure itself is dull and tiresome. The problem lies with the level design. Environments and challenges are so repetitive, it’s difficult to remember a single standout moment from the game. Little skill is required to progress, and even new abilities, such as a swinging tail or grappling claws, don’t break up the monotony. The vehicle sections do offer some respite from the boredom, and let you customise templates such as cars and hot air balloons with your own funky designs and then control them through set courses. Unfortunately, enemies such as monkeys, giant ladybug creatures, and evil ink blobs are easy to beat, and there’s no option to customise them with your own designs, which would have been a nice touch. The only other objects you can customise feature in the background, such as drawing a fork for a monkey to eat with…but what’s the point of drawing this if you never see a monkey actually use it?
There's another aspect to the in-game drawing tool, and that's drawing within dynamic boxes that appear in each level. Sometimes you might have to draw a straight line within the box and then use it to walk across a gap, or draw a circle that will then roll down a hill to take out a bunch of enemies. This even allows for some interesting physics-based solutions to puzzles in the game, such as dropping a heavy object onto a seesaw to propel your character through the air. These boxes can only be filled with a limited amount of ink, although if you make a mistake you can simply delete your drawing and start again. Because these scenarios focus on problem solving and can offer quite a challenge, they provide a different, and equally rewarding experience to those that inspire artistic creativity.
The story is simple: You are a god to a catlike race called the Raposa, and you must recover the Book of Life after it goes missing. You take quests from the villagers, such as helping a farmer gather seeds to plant crops, or drawing a new door for a shop to replace one that was stolen. These missions typically involve talking to a character, heading through the village, and then continuing on to the next stage to complete the task, and this frequent backtracking between missions becomes a bit of a chore due to the size of the village. Levels are unlocked one after the other, and you need to complete each one to progress. Even if you have limited experience with platformers, you should have no trouble completing the story in around six or seven hours.
In addition to the single-player story mode, Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter features four multiplayer games, but sadly they're not even worth checking out. They include two-player variations of football, basketball, ice hockey, and volleyball, and the gameplay is virtually the same due to overly-simple controls. The aim is always to score five points before the opposition does, but there's no enjoyment to be had from these simple scenarios. Surprisingly, none of the games focus on Drawn to Life's core drawing mechanic or even platforming, so what you're left with is a bunch of games that feel shoehorned into the package.
Drawn to Life looks bright and colourful, with vibrant environments that range from lush green jungles to dark dungeons--though if you're not happy with the artistic style, you can always inject some of your own style through your creations. The graphics are pleasing and eye-catching, lending the game a colouring book feel, and the cheery, upbeat soundtrack is a nice accompaniment to the visuals. Yet the enchanting visuals and amusing drawing mechanic can't compensate for repetitive platforming and simplistic multiplayer options. Drawn to Life certainly has some charm and an innovative premise, but sadly it doesn't have the gameplay to back it up.