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September 5, 2014

Drawn To Life (Part 1)

To read the introduction for Drawn To Life Month, go here.

You are the Creator. The creator of everything that exists in the world of the Raposa. You, yes, YOU. As in, second-person you. As in, You-Are-The-Hero-Book you. Talking about books, You, Creator, built everything in the world of the Raposa using the Book of Life, which contain the very essence of all that is. The early pages contain the drawings of the planet, the forests... and the Raposa. I hope you have the ability to draw with very limited tools, as all you can do at first is select a color and trace lines. Please don't take an hour drawing each picture, it already lengthens the gameplay enough. The book goes on to say how darkness came around and the Creator abandoned the Raposa... You monster! Why did you do that?

The game actually starts as the Eternal Flame was put out, and the darkness is closer than ever. It turns out there's a young Raposa named Mari, who is praying for the Creator's return. Almost everyone has left. You get the choice to help her... or not. Please help her, I will not accept explaining the story to an evil Creator. “You” tell her to get everyone left in the village and take them to the Creation Hall. The ones left are Mari, her father the Mayor, and her friend Jowee.

Talking about the Raposa, I have to say it again. They're friggin' adorable. chibi fox-people with huge heads and ears, small limbs, big heads... everything to become instant cuteness for Internet. No wonder those characters are popular! They've got everything to get the fans to squee.

Jowee and the Mayor.

We see the Mayor as the only other group of Raposa are leaving: One named Isaac, who is leaving with his family. You quickly notice that the darkness covers everything, literally and figuratively: No one is feeling good, everyone is sad, and there are black clouds everywhere preventing the Raposa from reaching key places. Wherever there's no black clouds, there's grey snow. That DS box lied to me with promises of a colorful game!

That is the Creation Hall? I feel disillusioned.
You, the Creator, let Mari and Jowee inside the Creation Hall. After saying that the Mayor is in danger, "you" then create a hero out of a nearby wooden mannequin. You draw every part of its body, constructing a humanoid creature who may be a human, a robot, a snowman, anything you want it to be. Yes, you can try to draw characters you saw in other works of fiction. There are no boundaries aside from the size of the squares for each body part. Let's say we pick one of the many available models. Keep in mind, though, that this is not a flesh-and-bone character: It's still a mannequin deep inside, a puppet that lacks speech (most of the time) and many other features. BUT you get to name it, him or her... From this point on, you control the mannequin, as it is like an avatar of the Creator, and therefore You are still the Hero. (Therefore, I will not call it Nicolas in this review, unlike what I usually do when I'm naming protagonists in a game.)

Trapping the Raposa in their village? You know they will
find a way out at some point. Because they can.
The Hero finds a young Raposa whose parents forgot behind. Isaac's daughter. Oh... Mari, Jowee, the Hero and the young Rapo are about to exit the village, but a dark figure shaped like a Raposa appears. He ridicules the Creator's new puppet and then presents himself as Wilfre. ...Wilfre... As in, “will free”? “free will”? Huh, look at that. Oh, but he's no small-time villain. He's the cause of all the darkness in the Rapo-world, he has torn apart the Book of Life, and he has spread them all over the world to ensure his total victory. Oh, he also blocks the only way out of the village. Our villain, everyone. More powerful than you would have thought of, huh? Wilfre leaves quick enough, still gloating about his near-victory. No, seriously, the game begins as he has pretty much won - You, the Creator, are the Deus Ex Machina used to save the world!

The Hero later joins the Raposa near a door leading to the game's first World, Snow Fields. You immediately enter a tutorial level that teaches you the basics: A to jump, Y to run and punch. You often use the stylus to open doors... and tap black goo that often covers the surroundings. Yes! You, too, can erase the darkness around you! In fact, there are black goo monsters coming out of the goo in the level. Luckily, you can punch them and even stomp on them. Hey, does that mean you should have drawn Mario? Yes. Yes, you should have drawn Mario.

Also, you learn to draw! Or, rather... In the levels, there are often canvas that you can tap: They will tell you to draw something in particular, and then bring you to a drawing screen. You can draw level features, platforms, tools, all sorts of things with these. The one in the tutorial tells you to draw a solid cloud so that the Hero can cross gaps or go higher than its legs can jump. Floating platforms, you know. You can just paint the whole rectangle black if you're lazy, but remember: That makes you just as awful as Wilfre!

Further down the line, the Hero meets the Mayor... trapped in a cage made of black goo! Luckily, the puppet can break it open with its fists. Awesome. The Mayor is freed and returns to the village with the Hero. Upon their return in the village, the Mayor apologizes for not listening to Mari... but he left the door to the Snow Fields open, and the young Rapo goes into it! However, the Mayor says he found a page of the Book of Life before he was captured: A page for a Snowshooter! You draw it and equip it to the hero. Hey, where can I get that snowball gun? I think it could be useful for me during winter. If only to annoy the kids living across the street.

How do the regular levels work, now? There are three captured Raposa that you must save: One that is important, and two that are less important. Hey, this game will have plenty of characters by the end, trust me. We don't need every single bystander Raposa to have a name. BUT you have to save all three, as whichever one you save will have plot relevance until the next stage. In every level, there are also four pieces of a page from the Book of Life. You cannot let those slip by either. You have to pick them up, as they open the door leading back to the village. It's only whenever you pick all the pieces that the Creator can bring back one element of the Raposa-verse. In other words, every level helps you in bringing back a bit of the world to normal. In the levels, there are also regular items (coins, lives, hearts), and Stamps. What are Stamps, you ask? Well, they're special items, three of them in each level, that you must find if you're trying to achieve 100% completion... but aside from that, they're nothing special. When you find one, you can buy it in the game's Shop... which isn't available at the moment... and then use it on your character! Yes, you can use the Stamps as decorations for your custom character. The Stamps also iclude all-new color palettes and new "abilities" for the Hero. As if it couldn't get any better! Also, each level is separated in a few sections. To access the next section, you must have collected every ripped page and captured Raposa in the current section. That's good, the levels would really be horribly long if you had to go back and forth through those levels...

Anyway, from now on, I'll try to avoid discussing every level entirely. I'll concentrate on the village story. Because this story is interesting and it is NOT by discussing the levels that we'll get to know the characters and appreciate them. But I'll be fair. All levels do contain special objects that you must draw or color and are very awesome.

However, there is one thing that annoys me with the levels. They are freaking long. Every level in this game is really long, taking at least five minutes and at worst... I dunno, ten minutes. Yes, the levels are already long, but some are literal MAZES. It gets jarring in the last levels. And that's not counting whatever you have to draw to go forward! The length is what annoys me the most. This is what turns me off from this game. I'd even go a step further: If this game didn't have such a great plot, I wouldn't play it much. Literally, the story is all that drags me to it, because the levels feel like a chore. You heard right: The actual game parts are a bore. Oh hey, I rhymed. The plot is what keeps the player going, because it's the best part of the whole thing, and you WANT to know what's going to happen later.

"Aaaah! I created darkness! I wasn't creative enough!"
"I only used black and the Paint tool! I'm an idiot!
I'm... sorry..."
Moving on... The Hero returns to the village with Isaac and his family. They are welcomed by Mari, Jowee and the Mayor, and Isaac says it wasn't long before he was captured by Wilfre. Jowee asks who Wilfre is, and we get some much-needed exposition: Wilfre was a respected, gray-haired member of the Raposa community. He wanted to make the world even better, believing his talents were greater than the Creator's, so he set his hands on the Book of Life, in which any drawing becomes reality. Well, that explains why this world exists... I guess... Anyway, Wilfre tried creating, following through with his extreme plan, but he only managed to make monsters, black, gooey monsters. He was found quickly, but he ran away. Chased by members of the village, trapped at the entrance, on the bridge, he ripped the pages of the Book of Life and threw them away. He was banished, but with the Book of Life destroyed, most things slowly disappeared: The sun, the moon, and then what kept darkness away from the world. Which explains the great sadness at the beginning of the story.

Huh. Congrats, 5th Cell. This is all very creative. Much better than the plot behind the first Scribblenauts. Wait, a plot in Scribblenauts? What plot? Silly me, the first Scribblenauts game had no plot! And this one has too much. As it turns out, whatever was made by the Book of Life turned white. Like it did not exist anymore. Last to disappear was the Eternal Flame (Not so eternal after all, huh? *Insert evil laughter here!*). Oh, but wait! Weren't there pieces of pages that the Hero picked up? Yes! And on further inspection... they turn out to be pieces of the page for the Eternal Flame! The Creator – you – colors the pedestal and then selects a color for the Eternal Flame. After which the Creator can erase the darkness surrounding an area of the Raposa village. This time around, Isaac's shop is the one that gets freed from the black clouds.

This doesn't look like
a shop, does it?

From this point on, the game pretty much follows the same basic pattern: The Hero enters a level and comes back with four pieces of a page and three Raposa, one of which has plot relevance. Because you must never underestimate the power of plot relevance. When the Hero returns, something comes back in the village thanks to the page of the Book of Life: You paint it or draw it, then touch the Eternal Flame to turn some of teh clouds somewhere in the village grey, which means you can then erase them with the Stylus. This causes the discovery of plot-relevant locations over time. Some more plot happens (Because! Plot! Is! Awesome! And I mean that in the least sarcastic way possible for this game), and then another level starts.

After it talks to the Mayor, the Hero sets out to find the page for the Sun. As it is about to leave, Jowee comes by and asks the Hero if he can come with it. You see, Jowee loves adventure. He wants to explore. He wants to be able to scream “Adventure Time” and see the world. But he's a small Rapo unable to go on the Hero's quest... For now, the Hero says nothing. Not like it can say much anyway.

The Hero comes back with Farmer Brown and his family. The Mayor replaces the page of the sun in the book of life, you draw the sun, and hop! The Raposa village seems a lot brighter suddenly. Yay, the light is coming back! ...Wait. How could they see if there was no light at all because of an absence of sun... Ah, never mind that, I guess it can be chalked up to “it's a fantasy setting” or “it's an imaginary world” or stuff. Farmer Brown's house is wiped clean of the darkness around it, so he starts working... but there are no Banya seeds! ...Banya is the fictional food the Raposa eat. You decide what exactly it is: does it look like corn, wheat, fruits or vegetables? Are they plantations of chocolate? Or peppermint trees? Your choice. However, before the Hero can go get the page for Banya, Mari and Jowee ask it to hang the village's name over the entrance. Oh, and the Creator gets to name the village! Let's call it... um... uh... Raposamora? Look, I'm trying to find a name that starts with either “Rapo” or “Raposa”. Concept!

When the Hero returns from the level with the page for the Banya crops, he comes back with Chef Cookie, who bears a comedic stereotypical Italian accent... oh, and a chef hat too. Also, the snow has started melting! That's great. The Creator re-creates the Banya crops and plants a few in Farmer Brown's field. I love to think of the player as a character. It's just awesome, you know? You really take part in the plot! The Creator also erases the darkness around Cookie's kitchen, and then draws a new sign for it.

The Hero goes to get Jowee, and finds him tossing snowballs around. The Mayor decides it would be a good way to increase the Raposa's happiness to start a snowball fight. You against everyone. Oh no, not “You” the Creator! I meant the Hero! I knew that kind of misunderstanding was going to happen... Hey, gotta enjoy that snow while it's still around! Hope you're in the mood for a mini-game! Won or lost, after the mini-game ends, Isaac tells the Hero that his shop is now open. In there, you can buy stamps, musical pieces and other stuff for your Hero. The God pays for his avatar. Stupid favoritism, huh?

Oh! But the place is getting warmer! ...A bit too warm... The Banya is getting dry! A heat wave! Oh noes! You little idiot, you brought back the sun, but you forgot to bring back the rain! ...oh, and the moon, but no one cares about that one for now.

Still, the Hero comes back with the page for rain, and brings back three Raposa too! And oh, hey, you even select the color of the rain after creating the raincloud! But the Hero sees Mari enter the Creation Hall... It meets her there and is soon joined by the Mayor. Remember that bit a lot earlier, when I said Mari was the Mayor's daughter?

“The only others are Mari, her father the Mayor, and her friend Jowee.”

Well, the Mayor thinks it's time for Mari to begin her formation. She'll replace her father as the village's Mayor were he to kick the bucket. Mari really doesn't feel ready for this. She leaves and talks to Jowee about this. But he's too obsessed with getting into an adventure with the Hero. Your friend needs you right now, jerk. Oh, but wait! Wilfre appears! He leaves quickly enough, but makes sure Mari knows that her father is in danger.

Jaws 20: A shark genetically enhanced to move in the snow
attacks a ski resort.
Uh oh! Apparently the legendary ice dragon Frostwind has awoken in the Snow Fields! And of course, the Hero has to battle it, or else it could make its way into the village! The Hero reaches the ice dragon's lair and looks into an endless pit... but the dragon shows up! First the Hero has to run from it, but at some point fights back. The ice dragon... is weak to snowballs. Uh... I call bullcrap on that. Though after Frostwind has been shot with enough snowballs, the dragon falls on the ground, unconscious, and the hero can ground-pound its head. Do that four times, and the captive Rapo is freed!

Half her face is covered in darkness...
To be continued in Part 2!