Drawn is an adventure game like none you’ve ever played. There are puzzles, sure, but they’re built right into the game’s environments and story, and don’t jump out at you. The real focus of the game seems to be this compelling fantasy story that you must navigate through and ultimately, help make happen.
It goes like this. Iris is a very special girl. Heir to the throne of a magical kingdom, she has a singular gift: whatever she draws or paints becomes real. Using this ability, she’s able to bring incredible new places into existence just by drawing them.
But her gift makes her a target of dark forces, causing her parents to hide her away in an old tower, where she’s cared for by a servant named Franklin. But just before the game begins, those same forces of darkness have attacked the tower, causing Iris to flee to its inner- and top-most reaches. Poor Franklin has been turned to stone by magic, but he’s still available to fill in some backstory for you and offer hints.Â The game begins as you find yourself drawn (get it?) to the tower to find and save Iris from the terrible enemy that’s about to destroy her.
Drawn encourages and relies on player exploration. Navigation is handled through an intuitive gesture system, where you simply scroll with two fingers in the direction you want to go. It’s not a perfect system; I sometimes found that my gestures weren’t recognized by the game, or that they would cause me to move in the wrong direction from what I intended. But it works most of the time. Every location is interactive, and they hold collectible items that will help you solve puzzles later on. The puzzles are challenging but never impossible — and one thing the game really excels at is helping you to never feel like you’re lost or don’t know what to do next.
Hints are always available with a single tap on Franklin’s face, and an objective list in the bottom left helps you to know what you’re expected to accomplish at any given time.Â Your inventory is at the bottom center of the screen. There’s also a clever “feet button” that shows you the available directions you can go, or people you can interact with. The tower may be mostly deserted, but the paintings all contain indigenous beings and creatures for you to talk to, and who will help you along your journey.Â Conveniently, you can even skip any puzzle if you find it to be too hard.
UsingÂ a whimsical art style that’s somewhere between realism and Tim Burton fairy tale, the world of Drawn is a lush, gorgeous place that you’ll find very inviting. The rich visuals — and in fact, a number of features about the game — repeatedly reminded me of Myst. And as a huge fan of Myst, that’s one of the highest complements I can bestow. For example, the visuals are a slideshow in style with some built-in Quicktime-like animations. The ambient music sets the perfect, somber mood, and the paintings serve as portals to another place, very much like the books in Myst.
A few thoughtful options let you customize the experience, such as the ability to invert the gesture system or flip the controls for left-handed play. You can also set the music and sound effect volumes separately — it’s a small thing, but an option I’m always grateful for. There are also lots of Game Center achievements to unlock.
Since failure is never really an option thanks to all of the hints built into the game, Drawn‘s major focus is on experiencing the story. And it’s a story that, thankfully, is actually worth experiencing. Drawn is a beautiful, emotive game; it’s easy to see that a lot of thought and love and attention to detail was poured into its making. It’s a rare thing to experience an iOS game of this caliber and level of quality.
Drawn is one of the finest and most engrossing iPad games I’ve ever played, easily ranking alongside the best downloadable titles available for any platform — be it Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, or what have you. $9.99 is a little more than you probably expect for an iOS game, but I justÂ loved everything about it, and would give it six stars if I could. Absolutely worth every penny.