Big Fish Games Shows That Old Adventure-Puzzle Games Still Hold Appeal on the iPad

Drawn: The Painted TowerIn the early years of games, one of the more common game genres was adventure. Players would move about different, often static, scenes in order to unravel a story (like many early LucasArts titles) or resolve a puzzle of some sort (e.g. Myst).

Regardless of type, an older iPad app called Drawn: The Painted Tower HD, from casual games developer Big Fish Games has shown that, while these games are more rare in modern gaming, their appeal can be just as alluring as they ever were.

For $9.99 this adventure-puzzle game might seem a bit on the high end for a mobile title, but here is the simple truth: If you are a fan of this older genre, Drawn, is a game worth buying.

Wrought with beautiful artwork and myriads of puzzles and riddles interwoven within one another, it’s a game that effectively captures the essence of old adventure games. Of course, the app is not perfect and still suffers from some rather irritating control issues.

Players take on the role of an anonymous “hero.” They are out to help a girl that is, for all intents and purposes, locked away in the “highest tower.” Cliché as that may sound, the catch is that she is no princess, but rather the last of a family that can create paintings that lead to other worlds. However, in order to reach her, players must navigate the various rooms and levels of the tower and unlock each of the magically sealed doors leading to her.

PaintingsThe play is simple enough as users are presented with a semi-static scene with which they can interact with. Each scene may have various objects lying about or other bigger objects, such as a painting or chest, that can be examined more closely. The idea is to carefully scan each area of a scene for anything, literally anything, that might be useful. These items could be a hammer, shards of glass, water, and pretty much anything else that you can think of.

Like the adventure-puzzle games before it, players must use the items they find in order to progress. However, not all items will be used immediately or used by themselves. Early on, things are simple in that puzzles are “find key” then “insert key in door.”

After that, things begin to compound. As an example, very early in the game, there is a rainy door with a slot for what looks like a sun. After solving other puzzles, players will find a sun relief, but must make it act like a sun by figuring out how to turn on a fire place, heat up the item up, then remove it, then place it.

It is still technically “Key A to Slot B,” only with more steps in between, but each puzzle continually becomes more compounded and more riddle induced. Eventually, characters will ask for items that require the user to think about where it might be, then go through the compound puzzles. It becomes a fascinating effort in both logic and riddle solving.

PuzzlesNot true puzzle solving you say? Well, don’t worry because there are “real” puzzles as well. From slider puzzles to lining up spinning dials, there are a number of mini-puzzles seeded within many of the other logic and riddle-based ones. Early on, these are all pretty easy (that’s to be expected), but gradually increase in difficulty as the user progresses. Furthermore, players even have the option to skip a mini-puzzle if they so desire. But where’s the fun in that?

To really boost the immersion level of Drawn, Big Fish has also taken the time to really enhance the mood of game as a whole. This goes beyond artwork, but the game is filled with dramatic, melancholic music, dreary voice acting and even the occasional Ken Burns affected cut scene. Okay, granted the narrator is a bit lacking in the emotion department, but he has been turned to stone, so we’ll cut him a slight break. Beyond this, the world is littered with letters from the girl who has been locked away, allowing the user to unlock extra bits about the story as they desire.

As good as Drawn is, there is one downside. It feels like Big Fish couldn’t make a decision on its control scheme. In many of the scenes, players can move left, right, forward, or back by swiping two fingers. Doing so will typically zoom the player in on an larger item (like a painting) that can be investigated, or sometimes move them to a whole new room.

Unfortunately, in many scenes, players can tap an arrow that also moves them. However, what happens is that the arrow often takes up the entire side of the screen, so players very often tap something too close to the edge and end up leaving the scene.

Game CenterThe interface should be swipe to move and tap to investigate, not swipe to move and then sometimes tap and move. Pick a control scheme and stick to it, or give the user the option to change it.

The other element worth noting is Drawn is that Big Fish also incorporates some minor social features. This isn’t anything terribly involved, but the game is connected to Game Center and allows the player to unlock and earn a variety of achievements.

Despite some of the control issues, nothing within Drawn detracts enough from the game, as a whole, to make it of lesser quality. Very artistic and well polished, it is a adventure-puzzle game that does justice to the ones of yesteryear. That in mind, yes, $10 is on the higher end of the average mobile game, but if you have an iPad, and are looking for some mental stimulation and atmosphere, Drawn comes very highly recommended.