Coming from reviewing Bakushow, a simple game that offered nothing more than an interface for a pseudo version of Pictionary with a splash charades left me wondering "What would it have been like if they had spent more time and resources on it?" Now here comes another charades game that may just fulfil this question.
Upon first booting the game you're asked to select your character, which quite ingeniously the characters you can choose are actual letters partially humanised with eyes and a mouth. Once you select your letter (you can only select from A-I) your told to enter your name, this is where one of the games main mechanics are revealed right away, with bakushow you wrote your answer on the screen and your friends not the game decided the winner, in this game however there is a handwriting analyser that will turn your scribbled lettering into actual text, we'll talk about this more later.
Bakushow was a multiplayer only game which had an emphasis on user generated content only. This is where Pictoimage differs from bakushow. Pictoimage has a single player mode and within that single player mode there are four options.
Firstly is the main single player mode "PICTOIMAGE". You are presented with a screen full of boxes with a '?' in them, you select one and are taken to the drawing screen where on the top DS screen you'll see a preset animation of someone drawing an object and you have to write out the answer using the bottom screen, the people used for the top screen animations range in age from around four to right up in the fifties which means you'll have to think outside of the box when dealing with the scribble of a four year old. I'm a little disappointed with this mode as this is all you do, granted there are 300 puzzles but I managed to get through the first 100 in less than an hour. Then there are those puzzles where you sit there for ten minutes guessing over and over and over again only to get it wrong each time, thankfully you can play any of the 300 puzzles at any time so if you get stuck on one you can simply move onto the next.
The next section within the multiplayer mode is "HOW TO DRAW". As the title suggests this section teaches you how to draw anything from animals to the very hand you're drawing with. This section is obviously targeted towards children and why not? It's quite a clever idea especially when you have to do all the drawing yourself in the multiplayer part, it teaches you how to draw simple yet recognisable objects that you could possibly use either later in the game or in real life. Once you've selected the object you want to learn how to draw you are shown the image on the top screen, the bottom screen turns into a canvas and the tutorial begins. The tutorial text is written is extremely simple English so I doubt many children will have problems reading it. You simply follow the steps until you're done. As a mode it seems like a time waster as you gain no progression through the game from it but for children it acts as a fun tool to teach them how to draw.
Linking in with the above mode is the "GALLERY" mode in which you get 10 slots to pretty much draw what you want and save it, I liked to think of this mode as a simplified MS Paint for children.
And finally the last single player mode is "PICTOIMAGE for TWO" and here is where the multiplayer part starts, though in this mode you swap one DS between you and a friend. When the game begins player A is given a word on the top screen. The player must draw that word but as the actual object so if the word was "Dog" you'd draw a dog. Once you're finished click ok and hand the DS over to your friend. They are then presented with your drawn image on the top screen and the handwriting analyser on the bottom, player B has a minute and a half to write down their answer and click ok. This continues for five rounds then the game is over.
This is where the handwriting part can become a pain, the game takes into account that everyone's handwriting is different and for the most part as long as you stay to the height guides you'll be fine with the odd letter being misinterpreted (It constantly thought my 'g's were 's's) but saying that if your hand writing is particularly messy like say a young child the recognition becomes hit and miss which can be a real pain if your struggling against the clock. Thankfully they have also included a secondary option of a more traditional keypad which although it is a welcome change has to make you wonder if the developers knew the handwriting part wasn't up to scratch and added this as a quick fix, but either way for the most part the handwriting recognition is accurate and fluid to use.
Like with bakushow this game also has multi cart multiplayer meaning you only need one cart for upto 8 players. There are five different modes, all variations on the "PICTOIMAGE for TWO" with instead of swapping the DS back and forth the DS sends data back and forth between all the DS's in play. One disappointing aspect about the multiplayer is that three of the five modes require you to have more than two players with one of the modes requiring four players. As with bakushow it brings up the problems of trying to find that many people who are willing to play with you though the two two player modes are good enough to keep you and your friends engrossed for at least a few hours.
Graphically the game is simple, but as none of the mechanics of the game require anything fancy there is nothing to complain about, the tutorials are bright and colourful, all text is easy to read and the boxes for the handwriting recognition are comfortably large. If I were to complain about one thing is that some of the images used in the single player "PICTOIMAGE" mode are indistinguishable from a mess of lines, and in one case the images was nothing but some lines, apart from that most of the challenges are drawn well and will not present much of a problem.
The music in the game is very lively if a bit on the cutesy side. The music loops within the game which can add you're your bemusement when you keep getting a puzzle wrong over and over again; thankfully there is always the volume slider if it gets too bad. The sound effects can be quite amusing especially if you complete a puzzle on the fist try you'll hear a bunch of kids go "Wow" in an extremely over the top manner than you'll hear clapping, like with the music it too can get annoying especially if you complete puzzle after puzzle on the first try, the sound effects loose their meaning in the respect that you get the sound if you manage to complete a level first try but if you complete every level on the first try then there is no sense of accomplishment.
This game is extremely portable as it saves after every puzzle you complete and it's easy to pick up and get back to where you were in a very short period of time, saying that though although this game is great in terms of portability as a concept, if you were to actually take this game on your way to work on a train/bus/underground then you'd soon find out that the constant jostling of the transport you're on render the handwriting part unusable.
This is most certainly a game geared towards children with the cutesy music and the 'how to' drawing parts. It beats Bakushow hands down in every department but the single player is extremely short and with little replay value aside from the multiplayer components you may find yourself trading it in not long after the purchase.