'Drawn to Life' gets mixed reactions

Here at the turn of the year, there are no exciting new games to review. So I'm going to turn my attention to a good game I overlooked a few months ago called "Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter."

There's nothing groundbreaking about the action parts of "The Next Chapter." It feels and plays like a lot of platform games -- sort of like "Mario" and "Sonic," but slower and simpler.

You run from left to right. You jump onto platforms. You swing from vines. You swim underwater. You collect coins floating in the air. You bop mushroomlike men on the head. You get the picture.

Here's where things get interesting. Large parts of the environments that you run through, from a jungle to an ice-bridge land and a shadow world, are not colored in.

So, you must draw bridges to cross, platforms to jump across, plus guns to shoot with, and cars to drive in, and clouds, and butterflies, and many other items comprising the game itself.

In fact, you begin "The Next Chapter" by drawing yourself. Then, while you're playing, you see this drawing of yourself running and hopping along, his arms and legs moving fluidly.

These things you draw interact with you on the screen. I drew butterflies that fluttered above my head and a car I drove quite well.

I've been fascinated by the response to this game for the Wii and the DS. Some adult DS gamers don't like the Wii version, because it's harder to draw using the Wii wand than with the hand-held DS stylus. True, that. My Wii drawings are like a 5-year-old's.

But I prefer the Wii version, because it's what I played first and to which got accustomed.

Other adult gamers say they simply don't like all the drawing they have to do. So they shouldn't have bought it in the first place.

My criticism is basic. Load times can go 15 seconds. So, you can wait up to 15 seconds for a canvas to pop up on the screen, on which you draw, say, a tail on your character, to swing from trees.

I would complain about the standard platform action, since it's fairly routine. But you know what? I found it to be intuitive and even hard, at times, to master -- giving it a quite-good feel.

I'd also like to share knowledge I picked up as a kid, when my mom was getting her doctorate in early childhood education, to suggest this should be good for kids.

"The Next Chapter" lets kids draw creatively, solve puzzle problems and play through an action-adventure that's not a big bloody mess.

All in all, "The Next Chapter" is a cool sequel -- but also dumb. Some adults might like it -- but it's probably best for kids under 10, casual gamers and illustrators looking for an art game.

One last thing: When you draw things, the game calls you the "Creator," assuming you're a god. That weirds me out a little. But if you're suffering from narcissistic behavioral disorder, this game will serve as your own personal enabler.

("Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter" by THQ retails for $50 for Wii; $30 for DS -- Plays fun enough. Looks decent. Moderately easy. Rated "E" for mild cartoon violence. Three stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.