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Let's Draw! (DS) artwork

Let's Draw! (DS) review

"Let's Draw! includes a variety of fun shapes, too, things that kids would actually care to draw. You can start out simple just by drawing a few lines—and the game will congratulate you on your artistic prowess—then move up to something more complex like a proper circle or a bicycle or one of several types of dinosaur. The folks who made the game clearly knew their audience and worked to keep them happy and engaged."

For the most part, I was a bright little second grader. My teachers knew me as a math wizard (that was eventually to change) and I regularly won drawing contests and free rides on local fire trucks (fire safety posters for the win!). There were areas where my brain wasn't quite where maybe it should have been, though. For example, I once went into the school library and found books on drawing. They were filled full of sketches and diagrams showing how to produce them. You know the sort of thing: step-by-step directions that start with a few circles and some squares that by the end have magically become complete drawings of favorite comic characters or whatever.

My stupid second-grade self looked at those step-by-step instructions and skipped right to reproducing the stuff at the end. Because it looked the best, of course, and because I couldn't see the point in trying to mimic the inferior attempts at the upper left side of the page when the lower right picture looked the most like what I wanted to draw.

I really could have used something like Let's Draw! for the Nintendo DS, an interactive how-to book that walks young artists through the whole process using the friendly and confident sort of narration that you would expect to hear on a PBS show about artwork for kids. "Now draw a circle for the face and two smaller circles for the eyes," it might say, and it's clear that you're supposed to follow along on the lower touch screen as your instructor demonstrates what to do on the top one.

Let's Draw! includes a variety of fun shapes, too, things that kids would actually care to draw. You can start out simple just by drawing a few lines--and the game will congratulate you on your artistic prowess--then move up to something more complex like a proper circle or a bicycle or one of several types of dinosaur. The folks who made the game clearly knew their audience and worked to keep them happy and engaged.

Clearly, accessibility was a large part of that effort. Each time you boot up the game, you can choose between an English, French or Spanish voice. Beyond the that and your selection of activity from the main menu, no reading is necessary. In each case, that same confident tone will guide you through every step of the process, but in your native language. It's surprising how much speech was actually crammed onto the cartridge, especially considering the multiple languages, so maybe voice work just takes up less space than I thought. Either way, children should have no reason to complain about the audio here. Both the voices and the cheery music played throughout are completely age-appropriate.

Visually, the game is about what you'd probably expect. Menus are bright and cheery and you'll be walked through by cute little animal drawings and shapes that some of the lessons will teach you to draw on your own. The main problem that I have with the game is most likely a fault of the hardware, not the actual design of this particular title. When I try to draw fine lines, I just can't do it. When I try to get precise about where my on-screen pen starts and stops, that's also difficult. I've progressed a long way from my days in the elementary school library, but the drawings that I'm able to produce here wouldn't lead a rational observer to that conclusion. I could do much better with a pen and paper, even though the stylus and touch screen seem as though they should be perfectly acceptable substitutes. There's also no option to fill in your shapes with a paint bucket tool. You have to color in by hand with markers or simulated Crayon, which can be a bit tedious and imprecise.

Drawing and coloring aren't all that there is to Let's Draw!, though. Children who are no longer challenged by the lessons can also play mini-games. These again include almost exactly what you'd expect. You can whack moles, pop balloons, race cars, play air hockey and make dolphins leap from the water. The included mini-games feel like repeats of almost every generic challenge that you ever see in budget compilations, but at least kids can know that if they like, it's possible to draw the creatures and objects that are depicted within them. That actually does make a difference, and medals are awarded for performance no matter how well (or poorly) you do. That should keep youngsters from getting discouraged, though it would be nice if the game had saved a record of top performances.

Unlike your top scores in those mini-games, your drawings don't have to disappear the minute you exit to another screen or turn off the system. A handy sketchbook is included. You can draw whatever you like without instruction, and you can save your favorite portraits to the cartridge and even to return to them later for easy revision if it suits you. That's a nice touch and serves as one more example of the developers doing their jobs and producing a game that knows its target audience.

Older gamers aren't really part of that target audience, but maybe they can find a use for the cartridge anyway. While I don't normally advocate coming up with your own creative ways to make use of a product you bought and paid for, I would in this instance. I can easily imagine road trips where children take turns drawing their favorite critters to see who can do it better. Or maybe you have an old copy of Pictionary and you're always running out of something on which to draw. Let's Draw! could actually fill that role pretty well, and others like it.

The end result is hardly a blockbuster, but Let's Draw! is simple enough and competent enough that I can see it finding a treasured place in your DS software library if you have young ones around the house who like to draw (or who you would like to see like to draw). Definitely pick it up if you can find it for an acceptable price. If you've kept your expectations in check, you should be delighted with the purchase.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 24, 2010)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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CoarseDragon posted April 26, 2010:

Problem "Beyond the that" in one sentence.

You expressed some concern with the hardware performance. Do you think will cause any frustration for younger users?
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honestgamer posted April 26, 2010:

If I thought the hardware limitations would irritate younger gamers, I would've definitely mentioned it. My specific concerns with the limitations were outlined immediately after I mentioned them. Namely, the stylus has limitations when it comes to precision, but for kids who are used to using Crayons and such to make their masterpieces, I can't imagine that being a serious issue.
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CoarseDragon posted April 27, 2010:

I thought as much. Thanks for clearing that up.

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