Point and click adventure games have seen a resurgence in popularity since the iPhone established itself as a legitimate gaming platform. On the iPad, this is even more of a truth, as the larger touch screen and better graphics possibilities make the iOS platform the perfect venue for the genre. The latest example of this is the deeply beautiful and intriguing game Drawn: The Painted Tower, originally created for Mac and PC by Big Fish Games. It is a game of intriguing story, dark and gorgeous art, and clever puzzles that test your patience as you try to rescue a little girl from her nightmare.
Iris is a unique little girl with a special gift: she can make things that she paints come to life. There are those who covet her gift, and her guardian and a group of select others have been trying to keep her secreted away, protected. When you enter the game, it is to help save her, and you are greeted by her old guardian -- who is now a statue. You and he will become good friends as the game moves forward, as this guardian is also the spokesperson for the hints system. From the very first screen, the quality of the art and the moody atmosphere that is conveyed is impressive -- and there are over 70 more screens, each filled with puzzles and their clues, to follow.
You are very quickly introduced to the focal point of the game and story: the reconstruction of paintings -- paintings that you can sometimes enter into, as if they were a "real life" scene. Once inside, you can interact with the occupants of this painted world, sometimes bringing some of Iris' friends in with you. A painting of a squirrel or rabbit, for instance, may come to life if placed in their proper place when inside a painting.
While the puzzles get progressively harder throughout the game, things are fairly straightforward in the beginning of Drawn: The Painted Tower. You look about the scene and tap on objects to find clues about how to proceed. The first few puzzles have an in-line tutorial system that tries to walk you through the steps without giving away the farm. Objects that are read or closely examined open in a circular zoom window that is over-lain on the part of the screen where they were discovered, or fill the center of the screen if there is more interaction needed. Items that can be used fly into your scrollable inventory, on the bottom of the screen. To use them, you simply tap on the item you want, and drag it to the part of the image that you wish to interact with. You can even drag one item onto another to combine them, if necessary.
Many of the puzzles will require several steps to complete, often including different items that can only be collected once you solve other puzzles. There are all kinds, including rotating mirrors, math equations solved via spinning dials, shape-based puzzles, and so on and so forth. There are times when you will want to pull your hair out, and the hint system will fail you completely, but if you persevere, you should be able to move along at something more than a snail's pace, and not want to toss the game across the room.
Drawn: The Painted Tower is meant to give off the same kind of fantasy nightmare vibe as Coraline and Pan's Labyrinth, but there are times of lightness as well, fostered by the little girl's paintings. Even the first one that you enter is a pretty scene involving a farm with pumpkins, flowers, and bunnies, and there are many more besides, which provide a nice break from the darkness of the rest of the game. Even the audio -- which is excellent and well suited to the game -- changes for these scenes.
One aspect of the game that I found difficult to get used to was the two-fingered swipes to move forward, back, and around. I always seemed to swipe in the wrong direction, which was very annoying. Thankfully, the game provides for this in the options, allowing you to reverse the axes. It was smooth sailing for me after I used this option.
Unless you hate point and click adventures to the point of physical revulsion, you really need to get your hands on Drawn: The Painted Tower. The art is fantastic, and realizes the nightmare world without ever becoming depressing. The story is engaging, and the puzzles are never too easy -- they will only rarely make you want to break something. If all else fails, hints are available to you. This game is a near perfect use of the iPad for this gaming genre, and at the current price of $4.99, you are getting well above your money's worth, I think. Even at the regular price of $9.99, Drawn: The Painted Tower is still a worthwhile buy.