The Drawn to Life property has such amazing potential. Think about it; they’re platformers, where you get to be creative and draw your own characters and experience into the thing. The first Drawn to Life, way back on the Nintendo DS, and the sequel (DS and Nintendo Wii), provided a solid statement of intent, allowing you to hand-craft just about everything so the adventure became a wildly, distinctively you thing. After the property was put on hiatus for some years it is now back with Drawn To Life: Two Realms. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this was the right way to go about resuscitating the property.
It needs to be mentioned that Two Realms is pitched very cheaply indeed. The developer and publisher know that this is by no means a top-flight game, and they’re only asking a few dollars for it. Given the time of year that it has released, it is a useful little “filler” game for anyone that’s got a bit of time spare, but that comes with the caveat that it really is a budget game in every meaningful way.
Two Realms is, basically, a puzzle platformer. The premise and structure is simple: you’ll wander around a little hub world, before running into someone that has a problem. You solve that problem by being transported to a series of short puzzle-platformer levels, at which point you’ll be moving on to the next person and their problems. The art is ridiculously cute and charming, but there’s no meaningful narrative to back that up, and because your character is mute and doesn’t interact with the world much, it’s difficult to become too invested in it.
Mechanically the platforming is a big floaty and, being entirely frank, felt like that one platformer I made when messing around with a Game Maker tutorial. That’s okay, though, since the real appeal of these levels is solving the puzzles of where to fit monsters and how to interact with the environment to reach the end. That side of things is done generally well, with a few head-scratchers along the way and that all-important “a-ha!” moment when you’ve figured it out.
What kills Two Realms as a concept, however, is how little “DRAWN to life” there is. You do create your avatar, though you can’t even use the Switch touch screen for that and the standard controls are a bit fiddly. But that’s a minor concern as there are plenty of different stickers to use in combination to one another to come up with some crazy designs, and it’s super-easy to draw a codpiece on to the character so let’s face it, that’s the most important box ticked. Other than the protagonist, though, you’re never going to be getting creative with this and when the original Drawn to Life let you come up with some crazy weapons and platform designs, the lack of customisation in Two Realms does very much feel like a step backwards for the very concept of the property
I am happy to see that Drawn To Life is still mulling around in the minds of the creators. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of platformers, but I greatly enjoyed the playful creativity and customisation that the original games offered. That Two Realms has somehow pulled back on a concept that even primitive DS and Wii titles managed perfectly well is very disappointing, but I hope that the low price point means that this was just a token first effort that will lead into a more substantial, and conceptually true, re-boot down the track.