Not content with making us catch’em all, Nintendo is now planning to make us sketch’em all as they combine their Pokémon and Art Academy franchises into, wait for it, Pokémon Art Academy, for the 3DS.
The game sees you enrol in the Art Academy under the tutelage of Professor Andy. With most Pokémon games you also have a rival, but this is a much friendlier affair, and instead you have a colleague who will rise through the ranks of the Academy with you, even though their skills are rather questionable.
The game (well, educational tool) is split into three sections. ‘Lessons’ has over 40 different drawings to master, and is the main mode. Starting off as a novice you’ll be introduced to basic techniques such as outlining, and colouring in, but you’ll swiftly progress to tougher challenges that will require a lot more effort, and a steady hand. Fear not though, as there’s no way to fail a lesson. Pokémon Art Academy is about enjoying yourself, so unlocking new content isn’t reliant on you producing pixel perfect renditions of your favourite Pokémon.
‘Free Paint’ does pretty much what you’d expect, and allows you to choose from a number of Pokémon to draw without any interruptions. If you find yourself struggling you can switch the view on the top screen to show the drawing broken down into a number of construction shapes. This is a handy feature for the tougher challenges. ‘Quick Sketch’ on the other hands allows you to pick a Pokémon to draw, as with Free Paint, but only gives you a single pencil or marker to use. This mode seems aimed towards getting you used to drawing with construction shapes.
It’s a lot more in-depth than one might expect, with multiple styles on offer such as pen, pencil, pastel, and even spray paint, as well as overlays, colour opaqueness, and smudging. With all this information on offer, the worry was that the menu system would be overcomplicated and cluttered, but luckily that’s not the case.
Tapping on an icon on the bottom right of the screen brings up an expandable colour palette on the top and different art styles on the bottom. Below that are a number of icons representing line thickness, or how opaque the colour needs to be. None of these icons are labelled, but they are self-explanatory and introduced into the game gradually so that they become familiar.
As you’d expect, all the drawing is done with the 3DS stylus. I found it to be responsive for the most part, with only the occasional frustration where it didn’t seem to recognise where I was colouring (that’s the excuse I’m sticking to!). Thankfully all parts of a drawing can be zoomed in on so smaller, trickier sections don’t prove exasperating. Those who are proud of their work can upload it to Miiverse, or save it to an SD card and print it out. I can’t wait to see what the Miiverse comes up with!
I did have a couple of issues with the game though. My biggest gripe is that, for me, the stylus is just too small to be used comfortably. Granted I’m a big chap with freakish man-hands, and the game probably isn’t designed with my age group in mind, but I’m sure there will be parents out there who will want to play this with their kids and run into similar issues. On occasions I felt like the Hulk trying to hold a regular sized pencil.
The 3DS itself can also be fiddly. When drawing you’ll occasionally want to move or rotate the 3DS to get a better angle, or complete a large circle, but this can lead to hitting buttons accidentally, causing work to be undone or menus to pop up unexpectedly. It’s not the end of the world at all, just a bit annoying.
A more divisive issue I want to raise though is the price. This game is currently up for pre-order for £39.99. Yes, you’ll probably find it online for around £30-35 but even that is way over the odds, in my opinion. From the presentation to the content on offer, this game screams eShop release with a £10-15 asking price. Obviously I can only go on my reaction, and yours might be different, but £30-40 to draw some Pokémon seems very steep.
Pokémon Art Academy is an enjoyable experience and does exactly what is says on the tin, combining interesting drawings with an easy to use tool set. I expect to see a number of phenomenal drawings hit the net shortly after the game is released – but I can’t help but feel that the price is too high for what it is. However, if you love Pokémon, fancy yourself as a budding artist, and find the game at a decent price then I recommend giving it a whirl.