Most helpful critical review
126 of 134 people found the following review helpful
Fun edutainment title, with some puzzling feature exclusions
on November 3, 2010
This is a repackage (with changes) of a product that was originally available as two separate titles in the downloadable DSiWare line. I didn't play those titles but from what I've read this is very similar, so much so that most others online don't recommend the purchase of both the retail and downloadable versions. The downloadables are still available as "Art Academy First Semester" and "Art Academy Second Semester", but both are among the higher priced titles at 800 points each ($8.00/ea.), particularly since this title is now on shelves for a few dollars more as a cart and offers a bit more content.
First off, I'm not an artist - in fact I can hardly draw which is part of what drew me to this originally. The lessons start off fairly simply and from the beginning I felt like I was creating images that were much better than I expected. While I've really enjoyed the title, the lessons section is fairly short and clearly not meant to be the game's breadth or replay value. The replay is in the Free Paint mode- which somehow manages to include a nice array of tools and options while staying fun and easy to use. Players can get inspiration either from a small library of stock images or those with DSi units can take photos and use them in game.
The lessons that are there are excellent and easy to follow. Basic technique is included with helpful images and references to both historically important artists and techniques. The overall effect of most paintings is more impressionistic, which is actually more forgiving for the beginner. Those wishing to create more realistic images will probably not be satistified with the level of detail possible, though a zoom mode does help with control and small areas. I'm guessing however that those capable of realistic drawings are probably already using more sophisticated tools.
A surprising element is the sound in the game. The quiet sound effects and soft music add to the relaxed mood of the title. For once I've found myself leaving the sound up rather than turning it off as I do with many DS games.
The biggest problem with this title is that there is no way to get the images you create, in either the lessons or in the free draw mode, off of the DS. They can be saved to the DS itself, but not to an SD card so there's no way to move the images to a PC for instance, or to print them. This is a huge frustration and a bewildering exclusion since apparently the first downloadable version of this title had this feature. This alone could kill the replay value of the title since who wants to spend a lot of time creating images in Free Play and then not be able to do anything with them? If this one feature had been added this game would likely be getting better reviews in the game press- I would certainly have rated it at least one star higher.
Other more minor issues-
- The early mini lessons limit the tools available to the player to the same ones that were available in the original lessons. So if you've moved on and are used to using, for example, the controls for the amount of paint or water on the brush, and you try to do a mini lesson where that's not available it's not only frustrating but it feels like the game is actually keeping the user from continuing to learn by building skills through experience.
- The images in the lessons and mini-lessons are not available in the reference gallery. This is a silly exclusion, as it would have taken next to no space on the cart to include them and it would have offered the player the complete toolset to try to repaint images without either the aforementioned tool limitations or the instruction. It would have been an incentive to try to repaint the lessons on a player's own and compare results, increasing educational and replay value.
- All lessons would have benefited from including a listing of the steps taken for each type of drawing or painting that could be referred to later. This would have helped learning to draw/paint in general and in getting through the mini-lessons to cement the process of sketching, shading, etc. The game provides some short instruction reminders in the mini-lessons but they're often not as helpful to the really inexperienced artist. Because I didn't play the mini-lessons right after the main lessons I found myself forgetting the steps for layering color to create depth.
- There's no way to trace an image. While a grid system teaches proportion control, it would have been nice to be able to move the reference image to the touch screen for undersketching.
- You can't go back and forth between the sketching and the painting tools. Once you choose to move into painting, you no longer have access to the pencils which is limiting.
While it seems like I have a lot of problems with the product, it's actually been really enjoyable and surprisingly relaxing. If only there were a way to move images off the DS I could see myself using this as a portable mini sketching and painting tool, but sadly I find myself wondering if I should have opted for the online versions with less features overall, but the ability to export. I would love to see another version of this product with a greater number of lessons and the issues above fixed. Either way I would recommend some version of this product to friends, as to which one, I'd suggest they go online and weigh the options.