Warning: This review may contain traces of spoilers, and may have come into contact with spoilers from other games.
I’m reviewing both Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn: Dark Flight at the same time because they are, essentially, two parts of the same story and might as well be the same game. Drawn is a puzzle game from the small-time company Big Fish Games, founded in 2002, who began making a name for themselves in the world of hidden object games (think of the I Spy books and you’ll know exactly the kind of game I’m referring to). I’d never heard of Big Fish Games until early this month when one of my girlfriend’s Facebook friends linked to their recent game Nightmare Adventures: The Witch’s Prison. I downloaded the demo – which was a complete version of the game, but only available to play for an hour – and was pleasantly surprised at what I found: a puzzle game from the old school. I purchased Nightmare Adventures: The Witch’s Prison immediately after my one-hour trial expired, and completed it within a night. Hungry for more puzzle gameage, I asked Webmaster Mike, a man who knows much about gaming, if he could recommend any other games in that style. The only examples that came to mind of the particular kind of puzzle game that I was looking for outside of Nightmare Adventures: The Witch’s Prison were all quite old; games like The 7th Guest, The 11th Hour, Myst and Riven. He suggested I check out a game called Drawn, and lo, it was one of Big Fish Games’ biggest titles! I promptly secured myself a copy and sat down to play it, and man, is it ever fun.
Drawn tells the story of a fantasy kingdom in a faraway land where a young princess named Iris has been locked in the labyrinthine and challenge-filled halls of the Painted Tower. Sought after by evil forces, Iris has hidden herself by using her special power – the ability to make anything she draws into reality – and it’s up to you, with the help of her former caretaker Franklin (who has been turned to stone), to find Iris before the bad guys do.
Drawn is presented as a series of mostly static pictures, each depicting a different scene or locale within the game. I was reminded of classic mystery games like the aforementioned 7th Guest, 11th Hour, Myst, Riven, and one game from my childhood that I wiled away many hours on: Zork Nemesis. Within these pictures lie the objects you need in order to solve the puzzles that block your way. A large part of Drawn is based off of Big Fish Games’ early work with hidden object games, and there are more than a few moments that you will spend clicking around the screen trying to find the last object that you need. It can be annoying at times, but it never gets too bad, as if you find yourself absolutely stuck, Franklin is there to feed you hints. The built-in hint system is an extremely handy feature, as it ensures that the game never gets too frustrating for you. If you find yourself maddened by the one missing piece of a puzzle that you’ve been searching for for hours, you can just click Franklin’s portrait next to your inventory bar for a bit of guidance. There is no limit on how many hints you can ask for, but there is a time delay between each one, which I found to be another clever feature, as it encourages you to keep on exploring without assistance. Honestly, though, the puzzles in Drawn are never really hard enough to warrant using the hint system.
Before I move on to the puzzle portions of the game, I should mention another helpful feature like the hint system that keeps the game flowing at a brisk pace: the “Skip Puzzle” feature. After you spend a certain amount of time on a puzzle, you’re given the option of skipping it to get on with the game. Since the puzzles really are the point of Drawn, I can’t see why anyone would want to skip over them, but I did find it quite helpful when my game ran into a glitch and I had to start over from the beginning. It took me maybe ten minutes to return to the spot where I had left off, even though getting there had originally taken a couple of hours. Like I said about the hint feature, you probably won’t need to use the skip puzzle feature very often, but it’s a nice option to have, especially if you’re not accustomed to this style of game or get frustrated easily.
Puzzles are Drawn‘s lifeblood, and they are both plentiful and fun. I’m a sucker for those little coffee table puzzles where you have to slide tiles around to make an image or untangle an unusual knot to free a wooden bead, and that’s exactly the kind of puzzles that you encounter in Drawn. Many are of the sliding tile or combination lock variety, but there are also a number of new kinds that I had never seen before. Drawn: Dark Flight, in particular, contained some really cool and refreshing puzzles. This one, where you have to use the conveyor belts on the table to light only the candles in the center square, was exceptionally challenging but also very satisfying to complete.
In addition to containing many, many terrific puzzles, the Drawn games also have a beautiful visual style. As the title implies, every new location is a beautifully rendered work of art, and the entire world of Drawn looks like it could be living inside a painting – appropriate, since much of the games is spent jumping into the magical worlds within paintings Iris has created. It’s a gorgeous game to look at, and I found myself reminded of the work of Dave McKean (particularly his work on Mirrormask) in some places. I can’t express enough just how lovely Drawn‘s appearence is, and the visual style alone is worth the price of the game. The art design is also perfectly suited for the fairytale adventure that makes up the plot of Drawn, and the game manages to feel like a living storybook in a way that few games really achieve. I wish I could get poster-size prints of some of the scenes in the game, because they’re just totally stunning.
The weakest elements of Drawn (the somewhat generic plot and the annoying hidden object moments) are easily outshone by the game’s strong elements, and I had an absolute blast playing both instalments. I think Big Fish Games has done a great job of capturing the essence of the kind of game that just isn’t made much anymore, and while playing Drawn I realized just how much I miss those puzzle games of yesteryear. Big Fish Games has yet to really jazz me with any games beyond the Drawn games and Nightmare Adventures: The Witch’s Prison, but hopefully they will create more games like these, because I totally love them and will be first in the virtual queue to buy them once they’re made. If you, like me, love logic puzzles and beautiful game design, then Drawn is definitely for you. Playing it made me feel the same as when I got my first computer and spent hours puzzling out The 11th Hour, and I’m thankful that I found it.
4.5 out of 5