The uDraw will have kids rushing back to their dusty Wii consoles after countless months of mums taking over to play Wii Fit.
This modern-day Etch-a-Sketch by THQ is a Nintendo Wii accessory that doesn’t feel like a tacked on third party accessory. It’s simple, functional and serves the purpose it was built for well: drawing.
The rectangular tablet features a 4×6 inch drawing space (could’ve filled out the space a little more but the size isn’t too much to complain about), a tethered stylus with a tip button and index finger button that slips neatly under the pad, and a slot for the Wii remote to fit into.
It’s light weight but thick, making it comfortable to hold onto and draw on for big and littler hands alike.
Annoyingly (as nit-pick as this may be), when the Wii remote is slotted into the uDraw, the infrared pointer can’t communicate with the TV, meaning you have to pop the remote out to turn the game on and to turn it off.
But enough about specs – onto some actual drawing!
While the unit itself may be a solid little piece of hardware that fits into the Nintendo framework of simplicity and utility, it’s nothing without games to play it with – so there’s no avoiding a little critique of the game line-up.
The flagship title that comes with the uDraw is uDraw Studio, a simple but function-filled drawing game that acts like an all-out art studio.
The functions go from simple drawing to suit anyone to more intricate effects, brushes and a diverse colour palette. Not to get the kids too bogged down, there are tips on what each effect and option does and how to use it, as well as a colouring-in game.
That being said, it’s still not the most user-friendly drawing game for kids, lacking one crucial element: a tutorial.
The cover art shows intricate drawings with beautiful shading and cartoons with perfect colouring, though there’s no lead-up to these in the ‘game.’ What you’re left with is a sketchpad to doodle on until you quickly get bored (and kids aren’t the most patient bunch).
Since the stylus (which is nice and fat, and comfortable to draw with) doesn’t have a pressure sensitive function here, there are no light strokes and gentle lines. Instead every line is as thick as when you start drawing. You can get around this with a few tapering effects, but the lack of pressure sensitivity makes the uDraw feel a lot less intuitive.
Trying to flex a little of that action muscle, the uDraw shows its diversity with a fast-paced, side-scrolling adventure game, Dood’s Big Adventure.
Players navigate their customisable character across 60 levels and four gameplay modes that integrate drawing motions and unique controls with the uDraw tablet.
Though it doesn’t to a good job of it.
The controls feel awkwardly experimental and throw players straight into the action without much help on the control-front. It throws in some interesting game mechanics that seem fun at first, like drawing lines on the screen the bounce your character off to get from A to B, but it just depends on how patient your child is as to whether or not they’ll pull much fun out of it.
Having such a wide range of levels and modes goes someway in making up for this though.
The uDraw is redeemed by Pictionary, the draw and guess board game turned into a virtual gameshow on your TV. Sticking to simple doodles proves a winning formula for the uDraw here, and once you start drawing with a group it’s genuinely hard to put down.
Drawing takes some getting used to since the scale of the drawing pad directly parallels the screen but leaves no markings on the controller. At first, I tended to try and begin drawing from the last point I had touched on the screen, only to run a line on the other side of the screen.
It’s not much like drawing on a piece of paper but, once you get into it and used to it, it becomes a lot more entertaining that the pad and ink version.
The uDraw GameTablet retails at $119.95, which doesn’t factor in the cost of the limited catalogue of games to go with it that sell for around $60 a pop. It’s a simple accessory that kids would jump onto, though the lasting appeal doesn’t seem to be there. THQ has promised more titles to be released until at least 2012, so more than the current five titles should be available later on.