Thursday, December 31, 2009

The magic of art! - a review of Drawn: The Painted Tower

Every so often, we get to play a one-of-a-kind casual game that raises the bar and leaves us wanting more. Big Fish Studios' Drawn: The Painted Tower is this kind of game. Interested? Read on!

What I liked

  • Whimsical art style
  • Adventure game mechanics
  • Fitting music
  • Good game length
  • Built-in hint system
  • Fun puzzles

What I didn't like

  • Technical issues
  • Vagueness in the story



Quick Plot

Save a magical artistic girl from a looming threat!



Mechanics

Inventory: This is an inventory-based adventure game, like Monkey Island or Grim Fandango. You'll encounter puzzles along the way, and there's a story driving it all, but you spend most of your time traveling around the environment collecting inventory items and using them.

Exploration: Some games, like the Nancy Drew series, are more heavily driven by conversations with characters, and often include lots of text to read. This isn't the case with Drawn - for which I was thankful. This game is more in the style of Myst, where you're wandering around trying to figure things out as you explore various areas.

Hints: Unlike most adventure games, Drawn has a built-in hint system that slowly refills after each use. So, you don't have to leave the game and look up a walkthrough when you're stuck. Fortunately, the game wasn't difficult enough to require frequent use of these hints. But for those of you who like them, the hints are there. Similarly, after a certain amount of time on a puzzle, you are offered a "Skip Puzzle" option.




Highlights

Art-style: The development team for this game put in lots of work to create beautiful environments. The dreamy and cold look permeates everything. The style is whimsical, with odd curves and unbalanced lines throughout. Rarely will you play a casual game with this much beauty.

A sense of direction: If you've played many adventure games, you know the sinking feeling that comes when you reach a point in the game where you have absolutely no idea what to do next. Drawn pleasantly avoids this flaw. Everything you need for a task is usually nearby, or somewhere else obvious. The times when I felt like I didn't know what to do next, it was because I hadn't tried something relatively simple in my current surroundings. You shouldn't ever be stumped for long in this game.


Music: The music in this game does what any good adventure game music does - it matches the theme of the game, and enhances the mood of each scene, making the experience engaging and memorable. This music team did well.

Game length: Very often, I find games to be too short, and therefore a waste of money. I think you'll find that Drawn has a very reasonable length. You accomplish a good number of things before the final resolution of things arrives.

Puzzles: I love puzzles. An adventure game without good puzzles is like a movie without any memorable scenes. Solving interesting puzzles is what makes adventure games so fun for me. This game has a good variety, requiring different types of mental processing and analysis. Sometimes, you simply need to use you mouse to trace lines or paint a picture. Sometimes, you need to make sense of a more complicated arrangement of things. I would compare the variety and difficulty level of these puzzles to the puzzles found in Nancy Drew adventure games.



Issues

Technical problems: The main problem I had with the game was surprisingly a technical one. Usually, the games I download from Big Fish play just fine, but this time I had a big problem where the game quit every time I reached a particular scene, and it happened for my wife too. We just couldn't advance. The good news is, once I contacted Big Fish's tech support, they were incredibly kind and helpful, and gave me troubleshooting steps to try. The steps worked and I was up and running soon after! If you ever have trouble with a Big Fish game, contact customer support right away. Theirs some of the best I've seen, right up there with Dell computers. Still, I don't understand why the game seems to require so many system resources. There are more intense mainstream games that have quicker load times than this game.

Wait, what's going on?: It might just be me, but I wasn't ever entirely sure I understood the story in the game. With my wife's explanations, I was finally able to better understand what was going on. Personally, I dislike vague storytelling, or unexplained elements in tales. I want everything clearly communicated and every detail explained. Drawn doesn't do this. I was left with some questions about How, Why, Who, and such. Most people, I think, are fine with this kind of story, so don't take my word for it. I'm just picky.




Suitable for the family?

The kids seemed to like this one. While I can see the general lack of light in the scenery as being potentially spooky to little ones, it didn't seem to bother my kids too much. I asked my kids what they liked about the game.

Kid1: The animals.

Kid 2: The little girl.

Kid 3: (Too young to have much of an opinion.)

My wife also liked the game. She and I both wish more casual games were being produced with the strengths and features of Drawn.



The family man's final ruling

This is one of the best casual games I've played. It did almost everything right. And I was so glad they kept hidden objects scenes out of this game. These days, the industry seems to be trying to drown us with HOGs. But I say, bring on more adventure games!



You'll like the game if...

  • You like adventure games, especially inventory-based ones
  • You like nicely painted environments

You won't like the game if...

  • You don't like exploration and puzzles
  • You prefer fast-paced repetitive type games


My rating:

If you want to play Drawn: The Painted Tower, click below:

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