Draw Something 2 (iOS) review

IMG_2484Draw Something 2 is a new release from Zynga, currently available as both free and paid downloads for iOS and coming soon to Android. The game is featured in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page, but is not an Editor’s Choice app.

OMGPOP’s Draw Something became something of a phenomenon when it was originally released, capturing the public’s imagination with its simple asynchronous gameplay and wide variety of words to guess. The game’s immense success, of course, led Zynga to acquire OMGPOP for an astonishing $180 million, after which the game gradually started to decline in popularity. A number of reasons were cited for this — firstly, people were simply getting bored with it; secondly, Zynga’s involvement had led the game to become very obviously “sponsored,” with a variety of brand names starting to show their faces in the word lists; thirdly, there were players out there who simply disliked Zynga and no longer wanted to support the game now it wasn’t the work of a plucky independent developer.

The original Draw Something’s gameplay had one big flaw in terms of gameplay: it didn’t really have a “point.” It wasn’t competitive at all, unlike many other asynchronous mobile games; there was no way to “win” or “lose” — all you could do was try and get as long a streak of correct guesses as possible when playing with a friend. There was no real reward for getting a long streak, however, just as there was no punishment for breaking one. This lack of tension and competition doubtless also played a role in the game’s gradual decline.

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Enter Draw Something 2, then, which promises to shake up the formula and get people interested in sketching things for their friends once again. It certainly does add a lot to the original app’s formula, but not everything is a welcome addition; the new package is something of a disorganized mess that doesn’t appear to really know whether it wants to be a game or a mobile-social network.

Draw Something 2’s core gameplay is almost identical to its predecessor. Pairs of players take it in turns to pick one of three words or short phrases (now selectable from various themed “packs” rather than just three randomly-chosen words) and then draw a picture to represent that word or phrase. The other player then gets to see the drawing take shape, and must guess what the word or phrase is using the provided letters. A “hint” facility allows players to use the in-game “stars” currency to solve individual letters for them, but each time they do this for a single guess, the cost increases. Once a player has either successfully guessed the word or passed, play swaps around and the other player gets a chance at drawing. The main distinction between Draw Something 2 and its predecessor is the far larger variety of drawing tools available, all of which cost one of the two in-game currencies to purchase. Now players can draw in pencil, highlighter, pattern pen (which allows drawing with textures), pixel pen (which draws with large pixels suitable for “retro” artwork) or crayon, and use a wide variety of colors. As with the previous game, it is possible to earn a lot of these new tools simply by playing the game, but it is a painfully slow process to do so.

Had this been all Zynga had done with Draw Something 2, it would have been a competent, if rather unimaginative sequel — and it would still suffer from the feeling that there wasn’t really a “point” to it.