Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter • Page 2

Pen and ink.

Not that the game is ever difficult enough for these conceptual stumbles to be more than a fleeting irritation. Jumps are rather soft and floaty, and the engine errs on the safe side by giving you too much leeway to make large leaps. For large chunks of each level you're simply bouncing and climbing over needless obstacles because jumping is what the genre demands; gaming reduced to Pavlovian response, rather than creative engagement.

Enemies are equally lethargic. Provided the sometimes clunky collision detection doesn't interfere, you'll see off most threats simply by jumping somewhere in their vicinity. It's not that these basic elements are ever particularly bad, just that they feel like a generic obligation - all the expected platform clichés arrive on cue, while the level design never aspires to anything more than an excuse to keep you double-jumping to the next exit. By the end of the first gameworld, you'll likely be playing in a distracted stupor, with more lives and coins than you need.

All of which could be equally applied to the previous game. New to this version is the concept of Action Drawing. This takes place in dotted-line shapes where you can scribble directly on the screen to create platforms and other objects outside of the drawing tool. Some even include elementary physics, causing the drawn item to be tugged down by gravity rather than sticking in place.

There's potential here but, again, the design never really runs with the possibilities. Too often these boxes are just there, forcing you to draw a line to link two platforms but requiring little thought. The later examples, which could almost be called puzzles, fail to inspire because, by boxing off the area where you can draw, the solutions are hard to avoid. There's only so much mileage you can get from rudimentary see-saw physics problems, and Drawn to Life runs out of inspiration too soon.

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Even using the provided character templates, the game still looks flat and bland.

In terms of longevity, the game offers a handful of sluggish multiplayer sports games (is it just me or does "rapo-ball" sound wrong?) and a slew of unlockables scattered around the levels in areas vaguely hidden just off the linear path. These items include stamps of facial features, body parts and colour palettes as well as complete character templates. Coupled with the pre-designed versions of every object you'll be asked to draw, it puts the game at cross purposes with itself - the bonus items that reward exploration serve only to help you avoid the very act of creation that the game is supposedly built around.

All of which sounds disastrous but, as with the first game, The Next Chapter's biggest crime is simply failing to fulfill its potential. There are no glaring technical problems, or insurmountable design cock-ups, just a rather dull platformer with a central creative gimmick that's too clumsy to be liberating, poorly incorporated into the action and often bizarrely sidelined by the game's structure. With games like LittleBigPlanet, Crayon Physics and Scribblenauts all exploring similar user-generated territory to varying degrees of success, Drawn to Life's continued inability to turn its absent-minded doodles into compelling gameplay makes it a sadly superfluous offering.

5 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter Dan Whitehead Pen and ink. 2009-10-19T10:58:00+01:00 5 10

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