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September 19, 2014

Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter (Wii) (Part 1)

Drawn To Life Month
Drawn To Life - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

I don't think there's ever been a video game franchise with a perfect track record. Maybe it exists. Maybe it doesn't. Keep in mind I said “Franchise”, which means more than one game, usually more than two. Name a famous video game franchise. Chances are that it's got at least one bad game. Plus, since everyone's tastes are different, not everyone will like the same games. No game is universally loved, no game is universally hated either. There are just games that are appreciated more, or games that are disliked more. And when you make a Top X list of your favorite games in a franchise, your list can be radically different from another gamer's.

And no, Drawn To Life doesn't have a perfect track record. But it's an odd case with this franchise. You see, I consider both versions of Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter to be part of the same continuity. Even though, it's the same title, so it's the same game, right?


The Wii version is extremely different from the DS version. 5Th Cell delegated another enterprise, Planet Moon Studios, to make the Wii port of The Next Chapter, while they worked on the DS sequel to their hit game. The result is two games that are radically different. So different that you can't count them as one.

Now, I know the ending of The Next Chapter (DS), and I still consider it to be the end of the whole series. There's just no way you can add something beyond that ending that will not feel superfluous or out of place. Which means that The Next Chapter (Wii) is either a different continuity altogether, or an interquel set between the two DS games (as the Wii game pretty much states it begins after the first Drawn To Life game, with Wilfre dead, apparently, Mari having replaced her father as Mayor, and the saved Raposa still living in the village – yes, even some of the weirdos, like Crazy Bark; even Mike is there!). The result is a game that you will probably not understand unless you've played the first game on the Nintendo DS, a game that leaves still enough story arcs open that you need the sequel for the Nintendo DS in order to get the full story. And as luck would have it, The Next Chapter (Wii) just isn't as good as the other two... Oh, it's not “bad”, just not up to par with the other two.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. How about we get an idea of the plot in this game?

P.S. I am using screen caps taken from the Let's Play of a user
named Jeff J. on Youtube. The link leads to Part 1, but there
are 26 parts to watch. If you want to see the full game, watch
his LP!

First the Creator draws the planet, the sun and the moon. Next, a narrator presents the Raposa village to us and a few Raposa: Jowee, the adventure fan; Mari, the Mayor, who replaced her father after he was killed in the first game; and Circi, the deputy mayor-

Is it me or the 3D makes these characters look REALLY cute?

Circi, you have no business here! You're an original
Wait. Circi? Who's Circi? Never heard of a Circi before! Where was that Raposa girl in the first game? All these questions, and more... will not be answered today. Or at least, not in depth. All we know for now is that she's a deputy. Thus, she's close to Mari, and as a result, Circi is quite important in the story, if only because of her closeness to the other main characters... who existed before her, which means she shouldn't be so close to them... right? And if she wasn't even in the first game, assisting the then-Mayor, why is she here helping Mari in her mayor duties? Hm, my Mary Sue sense is tingling... Soon enough she'll be running and jumping through the platform levels like they're a gymnastics course, going even faster than the actual hero.

Looks really nice, though. Feels peaceful.
Lookie, a smiling sun! Which you would have drawn.
By the way, you'll notice something very odd with this game. The hub world – the Raposa village, to speak in simpler terms – is not shown in a bird's view like it was done in the DS game. It's actually shaped like a platforming level, with houses scattered around the place, with the villagers outside their houses. The only bonus is that there are secret zones that can be accessed with floating platforms, air currents, and so on. You can also enter some houses to access additional secrets. Okay, it's kind of a good idea, but as a result, you aren't given all the freedom you had in the original game; one of the first game's strengths was that all NPCs unlocked up to a point could be found and talked to, and most changed dialog every once in a while, after major moments of the plot. Here, I don't think you have that. Here, they do, but some of them don't change much.

Mari looks upset. She tells Circi that the Book of Life has gone missing, and many other objects in the village have disappeared. Circi thinks Crazy Barks took the book, but is afraid of speaking to him. There's a lot to do and the Raposa are still rebuilding after the damage done by Wilfre, so Mari asks the Creator to help them once more.

As you'll noticed, Jeff J., who made this Let's Play, has made a
character all black with simple lines. A stick figure.
I can understand; I can't draw much better in this game.
Then, you go to the drawing tool to draw the Hero. One thing you'll notice VERY quickly in this game: Drawing is a pain. On the DS, it wasn't so bad, because you could have some sort of precision with the stylus on the touch screen... but here, the Wii's cursor keeps moving. So straight lines and pretty pictures are nearly impossible... which defeats the point of the game in the first place. Your creativity is lessened by the bad mechanic. Unless you got the drawing pad for the Wii, but seriously, who has that thing anyway? Thankfully, unlike the first game, the developers have included existing templates for all the objects, creatures and things you'll have to draw, so you can just select those instead. It still takes out much of the creativity, but at least you don't wind up with horrible pictures all around... or black squares everywhere...

Soon on Youtube: Drawn to Life - a bridge!
Okay, that was kind of a lame pun.
The Hero appears and goes to look for Crazy Barks, but the bridge over a river has gone missing too! Thankfully, the Creator can draw it as well (or load the pre-existing template... the developers save the day!). The group reaches Crazy Barks, who is accompanied by Heather. Did I mention she learned to speak again thanks to him? No? Whoopsie! At the end of the first Drawn to Life game, Barks somehow shows her how to speak. She had been mute during the whole game before that point. Anyway, she says Barks smelled danger, which is why he took the Book. Circi doesn't get why the Book is so important, so Mari makes a quick recap of the first game: Wilfre took it, made his own creations that were evil, turned evil too, the Creator's avatar killed him, all's well that ends well.

Obviously he had to draw monsters and skulls and bats. Obviously.
Guess flowers, bunnies and kittens weren't for him.

Action Canvas: They really milk out all the potential that
idea had. Seriously, you need a lot of intelligence and a bit
of luck to beat this game.
Jowee theorizes that Zaz... Sazash... shazsazszhazshazhs... Ash took the lost objects, so he tells the avatar to go look for the thief in Jangala, the forest world of the Raposa. Yeah, the worlds have actual names here. Neat. So, during this first level, the avatar is introduced to the new game mechanic: Action canvas! Those are canvas located in sections of the platform levels, in which you can draw lines in to create platforms. These platforms are vital to avoid endless pits or to get a little further in the levels. Each action canvas has a limited amount of ink you can use, so don't make too many lines; however, you can erase your first line in a canvas by pressing Z within the boundaries of said canvas, or hold Z inside the action canvas to erase all the lines. The lines also erase themselves after some time, so act fast. The first level only has blue action canvas, with lines staying in place, but later levels also have red action canvas, in which the lines will fall to the ground; for those, you'll usually have to draw squares or other things so that you can use to reach higher places; in some cases, your character can even push these blocks around. Finally, there's also green canvas, in which the lines stay in place and act like trampolines. Your lines get all bouncy!

By the way, if you thought the levels in the first DtL game were long, get ready, because the ones in this Wii game are LONGER. Oh God. No pun intended, but I'll expand on this a little later.

Yes, Jowee follows the Hero into every single level. Like a RPG
party member invisible on the overworld map but who appears
during fight or when plot relevance calls for him/her.

"Oh oui! Great rewards! Like ze soufflé! Ze éclair!
Ze dessert that has an E wiz an accent!"
The Hero reaches the end of the level, where he finds Zaz... Ash's mask, and brings it back to the village. It goes back to Mari to show her the mask. By the way, this game is special as it introduces another idea that wasn't in the previous game: Mini-quests! Basically, some of the villagers will have quests for the Hero. Farmer Brown will want the avatar to find a plant in a level, Officer Cricket will ask it to capture many monkeys around a level, and Chef Cookie may ask it to bring back ingredients for a recipe.

The Hero goes in the second level and gains a Monkey Tail he can then use to swing around. When he returns to the village, he speaks to Isaac, who says that the door to his house is missing... which somehow means there's a wall stopping him from entering his house. Oooooooh-kaaaaaaaaayyyyy... So the Hero goes in the third level and finds a door to put there. He replaces the door, but then reports come that Farmer Brown's banya crops were also stolen! And the footprints around the farm are shaped like a monkey's... so the avatar goes in the fourth level to retrieve the banya.

Good question... Let's see if someone with an adventurous
background and answer to that. Indee! Where is he?
...He's not here? Neither are Samuel, Count Choco, and
NavyJ? Man, this game lacks so many fun characters!
The Hero comes back, the Creator draws banya, and then Jowee says that monkeys really did steal the crops. Mari says they've made a pact with the Monkey King of Jangala, so it's very odd that the monkeys are causing mischief... To find the Monkey King, they ask Piratebeard about its location, but the pirate cannot answer as he has lost his map in Jangala. Here we go again! The Hero retrieves the map, returns to Piratebeard, and finally gets to know where the Monkey King is. (We also find out that Mike has made machines for the Raposa and is traveling to other villages, so we have no idea where the little 'human' is at the moment.) The Creator's avatar goes a final time to Jangala, where he reaches the place's boss... and you get one try as to who it is. If you answer is “The Monkey King”, well... it's an understandable mistake.

Funny. I thought the Monkey King would be less scrawny.
But they got the speech pattern down perfectly!
After a long level, the Hero – and Jowee, how he can follow the Hero around is a complete mystery – reaches the Monkey King, who has gone crazy and captured Zash... Zsasha. Ah, I finally managed to say it correctly! Actually, the King isn't gone crazy, he's scared of the Ink monsters. The hero has to go up the platforms, avoid the rolling balls of purple ink – which behave like barrels – and defeat the “Inkies”. Hey, is that a Donkey Kong reference? Dammit, this is about to become a video game cliché! Either way, the Inkies are destroyed, the King returns to normal, and the Hero goes back to the village with Zaz.... Zaszsazaszhhh... DAMMIT! Anyway, the thief explains that a shadowy person tried to steal the mask. Could it be Wilfre? Hasn't he been destroyed? Is he still around? Oh, this doesn't sound good...

By the way, more challenges are added by the villagers. Piratebeard gives you timed challenges, asking you to beat some levels in a certain time limit. The thief asks you to retrieve some items for him in the levels. Gotta give that to this game, even though its plot is kind of unclear, at least the game has got plenty of side-quests for you to complete. If you manage to remain interested in this game long enough to complete them, that is. Sadly, it's not my case.

This game suffers from the basic same problem as the first one. The levels are horribly long. And in fact, they're much worse here than they were in the original Drawn To Life game. It's sad, in a way, as I really want to get invested in the story, but here, the long levels are too annoying. What artificially lengthens the levels is the puzzle aspect added with the Action canvas. These parts can be very tricky, as you will often need great precision when you're drawing – and since you draw using the Wii remote, precision isn't exactly easy. You know, long levels are fine, when they're used with moderation. But if your game consists only of long levels – marathon levels, as called by sites like TVTropes – then you just lose interest. It becomes less of a pastime, it starts feeling like a chore. It just stops being fun after a while. Compared to the levels in The Next Chapter (Wii), Drawn To Life's levels are just the right length. That gives you an idea... I'm using a Let's Play on Youtube to get my pictures for this review. No level takes the player under five minutes. They all take between 5 and 15 minutes.

Woah, this looks scarier than Rapo City from the first game!

Anyway, after the Hero and Jowee report the reappearance of shadow blot monsters in Jangala to Mari, she and Circi hope that this doesn't mean Wilfre's return. But there is one way to be sure: The Shadow City world. Mari tasks the Hero with exploring Shadow City and look for traces of Wilfre. They do not find him... but they do find a page from Wilfre's journal.

Is he in full "CrazyBarksguardshisrock" mode again?
At his return, the Hero finds out that Crazy Barks also entered the Shadow City gate and is lost in there! Guess what: You have to go rescue the guy. Let it be clear, though, that I'm only doing this because he helped Heather speak again, like a clown making a traumatized person laugh for the first time in days.

The avatar ventures through Shadow City, which is HUGE, and retrieves Crazy Barks. Back at the village, Heather translates Crazy Barks' speech, which is made entirely of barks. The crazy one has found a way into the Shadow Labyrinth, which means... Yep. Another freaking marathon level! Goddammit! That one ends with the avatar and Jowee discovering a secret passageway near a giant clock... and that passageway leads directly to the village. Yep. So THAT'S how the thief can enter and leave the village so fast! And thankfully it's not Ash...

Also, the secret passageway is located right under a giant
grandfather clock. Bonus points for the awesome idea.

The puppet enters the world again to get four barrels of Wilfre's bad ink – wait. I thought he didn't need bad ink, he was just the result of messing with a reality-warping book... I thought it was normal ink until he turned evil... I thought it came from him? Oh well. Apparently Wilfre needed a factory to make all of this work, and it's up and running again. But who could have done that? Wilfre? But he's dead! ...Right? ...Right.... ...Right...

Haha! We've drawn a mustacke and a goatee on the portrait
of Wilfre! Funny! ...Wait. WHO IS THAT?
As a result, the Hero enters Wilfre's lair, in search of Wilfre, but he's nowhere to be found. Though, there are many paintings of him, that you can deface thanks to the Book of Life. I gave him a Groucho nose! Oh, but wait... Who's that shadowy Raposa-shaped figure over there? It doesn't look like Wilfre... But at the same time, it's almost all black... ….wait, “almost”? That can't be Wilfre! Wilfre is completely black! Unless...??? No, it can't be. Wilfre is a sly Rapo, sure, but he's also a ham, egotistical, filled with pride. He wouldn't be a sneaky little villain stealing stuff around. No, he would be launching a full attack on the village with an army of darkness. A literal one, made all out of black ink. Or he would use dirty tactics to cause chaos. He just wouldn't work behind the black (no pun intended). Therefore, I declare the dark figure a “Not-Wilfre”.

Oogie Boogie called, he wanted his character design back.
Either way, Wilfre's journal could reveal what he's up to. So guess what? The Hero returns to Wilfre's lair and goes to look for the journal. Except when it's found, the Hero accidentally awakes a large ink monster. Uh oh. The monster is destroyed when the Hero creates its weak point and then punches it. Thrice. I mean, this has to be done thrice, you create three weak points. Between each stage of the fight, the Hero has to climb up, which is extremely difficult with the ink rising fast.

Great storybook-style drawn cutscenes, by the way.
Once that thing is defeated, the Hero returns to the village with Wilfre's journal, pen and pencil. The main trio of Raposa – Mari, Jowee and Circi; who is still new to the whole series, so she shouldn't be main character, I stand by my point – starts reading the book. In there, Wilfre has written that if his first plan fails, there's he could still succeed thanks to a few Artifacts of Power: The Crystal Mask (uncovered from the Monkey King), the Pen and Pencil (also found), the Eternal Furnace, and Branches from the Tree of Ages... Wait a second, there wasn't a Tree of Ages in the first game! ...Whatever. Turns out Creation Ink can be made by burning branches of the Tree of Ages in the Eternal Furnace, so Wilfre could reshape the world at his will without the Book of Life.

I still stand by my point: These characters are friggin' adorable. This style
isn't helping; I'm really trying to sound like a grown man, but... aaaawwww!

I guess the race is on to find the remaining two items before the villain covered in black finds them!

Tune in Monday.