When it comes to drawing, I’m no Picasso, but luckily that mattered little in Draw a Stickman: Epic a few years ago on Xbox One. Needing to be able to draw anything with precision wasn’t really a factor towards conquering the puzzling adventure which saw a stickman at the centre of proceedings. Unfortunately, with skill not required and a selection of uninspiring levels to traverse, boredom soon set in. Now though, developers Hitcents are back to hopefully test our creativity more successfully by launching the sequel, Draw a Stickman: Epic 2. Is it totally epic, or an adventure you could easily give a miss?
Well, Draw a Stickman: Epic 2 appears to suffer a similar fate as its predecessor in being a rather average experience because although there are some nifty new ideas, the mechanics just aren’t up to scratch, amongst other things.
As far as a story is concerned, it all begins after creating your very own stickman and a little stick-friend as company. There are a handful of colours to swap between and different pencil thickness options to choose from. The initial drawing session sees the hat-wearing stickman Dave ready for action, which is fortunate due to his buddy, Tim, becoming corrupted by some very evil ink. Thus the quest to stop Tim commences and that’s basically the entire narrative. But hey, at least you’ll feel an integral part of what little there is to take in.
The main game consists of eight levels, each of which requires you to locate a pile of ripped up book pages in order to progress. Stopping you from getting to these pieces of paper are enemies, obstacles and puzzling predicaments. There are also friendly stick-folk that need a bit of help along the way too. The majority of the problems at hand can be solved by deciding upon the relevant pencil and drawing where necessary, or by obtaining useful tools such as a sword, an axe and a multi-purpose key. With no pencils or tools in your possession to begin with though, you’ll need to find them throughout the adventure.
This time there are five pencils to acquire and they’re a lot more creative than those found in the original in terms of what they produce. You can make it rain, add leaves to trees, freeze bodies of water and enemies, draw eggs for birds to hatch from, and connect equipment to each other using wires. Sometimes you’ll have to bring life to a tree to ward off ink-infused rats and bats, whilst other times you’ll want the services of a bird to be transported to areas that are difficult to reach. In theory, the connecting of wires is the cleverest puzzle type as you must power-up machines by ensuring the right colours are linked together. Sadly, it’s also the most frustrating aspect and ends up shining a huge spotlight on the biggest flaw in the game – the drawing mechanic.
For a game that revolves around the art of drawing, it’s utterly baffling that the core mechanics – on Xbox One at least – are bordering on horrible. Given the over-sensitivity of controlling the pencils, it’s going to be a massive challenge for anyone to draw anything accurately; whether that’s a key, a weapon or even an egg. The control scheme is confusing too, which makes it even more of a chore as you press the wrong buttons with enemies surrounding you. And whilst it’s rather forgiving in the way that a few random squiggles will mostly do the trick, when it comes down to the wires, finesse is needed. You see, wires cannot cross each other or touch an enemies, and so with limited space you have to be fairly precise. Is it impossible? No, but there’s a real irritation garnered from failing to succeed through no real fault of your own.
Furthermore, the experience is over far too swiftly, with a run-through generally taking barely longer than an hour. Even the boss battles against the likes of a massive goblin, a giant rat and a snake, are over in a flash. Credit where it’s due though, these encounters do provide a good, albeit quick, challenge to overcome. There is replayability in place if you wish to go back through previous levels to collect new colours for your palette and puzzles pieces, which become accessible as your arsenal of creative tools increases.
If you’re after something a little different however, the included Drawn Below DLC might be able to offer a tad more enjoyment. Unlike the main game, the DLC basically consists of you venturing through a series of inter-connecting rooms to re-acquire your tools, all whilst taking on more minions and ink bosses. Essentially it’s Metroidvania style gameplay, so if you don’t mind back-tracking a lot, then this can add another hour or so to proceedings.
Graphically, there’s a certain charm to the hand-drawn art style and it has enough character within the environments to ensure they aren’t bland either. What’s more impressive is the visual quality of the stick-people and baddies, which definitely haven’t been drawn using an Xbox One controller, that’s for sure. On the flip-side, the audio is so uninspiring that you’ll soon forget it’s even present in the background.
Draw a Stickman: Epic 2 might be fairly cheap on Xbox One, which almost balances out the shortness of the adventure and the abundance of rather simple problems to solve, but it can’t excuse the poor drawing mechanics. If the developers can’t provide us with accurate enough tools to make a decent looking stickman at least, then you have to wonder what the point is. Granted, there are some good ideas in place, the boss battles are pretty enjoyable and the Drawn Below DLC feels fresh, however, it’s still tricky to wholeheartedly recommend a purchase.