Sitting next to a cozy fire with Iris, a young girl in a red scarf, a wizened old man named Franklin begins to tell the tale of a boy who could paint worlds. But this isn’t just a story, as you’re the main participant in his adventure. In Drawn: Trail Of Shadows, the third installment of the popular casual franchise, players are invited to enter these gorgeous, at times sinister, worlds filled with impressive art and fantasy puzzles. A cohesive, if very thin, storyline propels a fun-filled exploration through lands of wonder and imagination filled with creative obstacles that are fantastically integrated into the game and give you a chance to use both your wits and painterly skills. Even if you haven’t played the first two games, you’ll enjoy drawing your way through this trail of art and creativity, though you’ll reach the end all too soon, especially if you miss the bonus detour in the middle.
This prequel to The Painted Tower and Dark Flight presents a world created entirely from the mind of a young boy. His imagination and artistic talent allow his paintings to actually come to life. Of course, a powerful talent like this does not go unnoticed. Because he paints both from his dreams and his nightmares, he unwittingly creates a door to his own kidnapping. An evil wizard, sprung from the boy’s own vision, seeks to obtain the power and use it to re-imagine the world as a dark, desolate place which he will rule. Compelled by a desire to save the little boy, you enter this painted realm trailing after both the boy and the wizard. The search won’t be easy, however, as the wizard has done everything he can to block your progress. He has ripped the canvas in each painted scene he passed through, tainting them in the process, and you must solve a variety of inventory and logic puzzles to fix each painting, allowing you to progress from one world to the next.
Trail of Shadows follows in the footsteps of the previous games by submersing you in a magical first-person experience. As in the previous two games, you’ll explore a variety of beautiful scenes rendered in a colorful, artistic style. This game has sacrificed a bit of whimsy for story cohesion, so you won’t find any gothic, off-kilter imagery here, but you also won’t find yourself moving through disconnected paintings either. Your first stop is a bucolic cottage tucked into a peaceful glen bathed in a golden glow, a neat little vegetable garden located just outside, with crimson leaves blowing in both the foreground and background. As you scan this scenic vista, the screen moves slightly left and right and up and down as you move your cursor around. You aren’t panning fully; the movement is just a hint, as if you were seeing slightly more out of your peripheral vision as you turn your head. This was a bit distracting for me at first, but I soon got used to it and found it to be a great immersive element. However, there is an option to turn this feature off if you find it not to your liking.
The majestic music and abundance of ambient sounds also do a wonderful job of immersing you in this fantastical realm. The game opens with a single female voice singing wordlessly, the notes weaving their way through melodic piano and cello accompaniment. The theme later changes to suit the mood of the current scene, such as jaunty tune set to tubas, brass instruments, and a xylophone when you enter a poster to play a game. While the score is soaring at times, it never drowns out the rest of the game’s sound work: You’ll be treated with the tip-tapping of little feet as an old-fashioned lamplighter scampers across the screen, and a bellowing trumpet greets you when you help out an elephant sculpted into a massive bush.
The sense that the world of imagination is grander than anything in real life is created by the imposing size of otherwise normal objects. And hidden within all of this immensity are often sinister stumbling blocks. A garden is populated by towering topiaries, and tucked within their verdant leaves are vicious thorns writhing in an attempt to attack you. An enormous stone giant carved into the granite face of a mountain follows your every move with its gaze. Waterfalls gush like gallons of tears from the corners of its stone eyes, and tiny inky ravens glide in the background. This sense of massive yet dangerous grandeur is evident in a scene where an immense stone arm rips itself away from the mountain, unfurls and reaches toward you before crashing down to become a bridge. An ominous feel lurks in many other scenes as well. You’ll encounter a wide variety of evil-looking beings and things, from a bizarre tangle of thorns that encircle a puzzle with three eyes blinking back at you to a bridge heavy with swarming rats to a strange guardian with a skeletal chest and five eye-like orifices in its forehead.Continued on the next page...