Home consoles haven’t seen a peripheral like uDraw launch since Nintendo’s legendary Mario Paint was released for the SNES way back in 1992, so this has truly been a long time coming. In short, uDraw is a drawing tablet for the Nintendo Wii, but it’s actually a far more impressive bit of kit than that makes it sound. It’s a satisfyingly chunky and sturdy little unit that allows for a striking degree of precision, and although it’s aimed ostensibly at kids, it easily warrants a comparison with some professional, budget-priced PC drawing tablets that are currently available.
And it couldn’t be easier to use. The Wii remote slots into the left hand side of the unit, with the tablet itself not requiring any additional batteries. Once you’ve inserted the Wii remote you’re good to go, and all you’ll need to do is get used to using it. The prevalence of touch-screen smart phones nowadays means that we’ve largely become accustomed to points of interest that endlessly reset themselves, and the TV-shaped uDraw panel surface obviously never does this.
But after about twenty minutes it will all become second nature. The only fault we found with the peripheral is that there is no hole at the top of it – which would have allowed the Wii Remote’s IR sensor to function through – but because of how intuitive the tablet is to use, this is a very minor concern indeed. The uDraw unit also comes bundled with a free piece of software; the terrific art program uDraw Studio.
uDraw Studio does begin with a very brief series of audio tutorials before you’re given the opportunity to actually start drawing, but everyone is advised to go into the dedicated Tutorial menu before commencing anyway, as there are plenty more essential guides there… including tips on how to toy with opacity, post effects and the very nifty replay function. It might be a little complex for younger children, but a ‘colouring-in’ mode has very thoughtfully been included too. Everything you create can be saved onto an SD card and then printed out on a computer. If you missed our original hands-on preview a few months ago, that can still be found here. It’s well worth checking it out just to see the short video clip that’s embedded at the very bottom of the page. In it, a renowned American artist named David Kassan uses the uDraw tablet to paint a human portrait; and the results are absolutely staggering.
Dood’s Big Adventure is a platform game that offers up four different gameplay modes. ‘Pen Panic’ involves the creation of trampolines to guide your character towards his final goal. ‘Roly Poly’ doesn’t use the stylus at all, and requires you to do nothing more than tilt the uDraw unit from side to side instead. ‘Bubble Trouble’ (the best of the lot) is played like those classic old fairground buzzer games, in which you had to move a metal hoop along an oddly shaped piece of wire. And ‘Fan Frenzy’ has you controlling a small hand-fan, used to pilot Dood through a series of sharp obstacles. If the uDraw tablet wasn’t so well designed none of these gameplay modes would work at all, and it’s a testament to the peripheral that all four of them work brilliantly. The hidden areas, star-rating system and mass of collectable trinkets ensure longevity to boot. You’re even able to re-design almost every aspect of the game in the ‘Create’ menu; you can craft your own personalised Dood, make your own baddies or design ‘Ballonimals’; giant airborne animal balloons that hover into view in the background while you’re playing the main game. It goes without saying that this is not a game for the hardcore set, and Dood himself isn’t the most distinctive lead character in history, but the constantly inventive (and enjoyable) gameplay more than makes up for the slightly drab hero.
This is the big one – the game that should have no problem convincing sceptical parties that uDraw can be put to truly excellent use within party-style videogames. The reasons why this iteration of Pictionary is so outstanding are plentiful. Before every question, you’re given the option to choose between an Adult and a Junior clue; so families are constantly encouraged to play together. Because you’re given a bit more time than in regular Pictionary, you can also utilise different colours and pen/paintbrush sizes. And although you can obviously just play straightforward Pictionary, ‘Pictionary Mania’ and its ingenious new set of modes is where the real fun will be had. ‘No Peeking’ demands that you pen your picture whilst looking away from the uDraw tablet; ‘Rotation Frustration’ causes your drawing surface to slowly spin around as you draw; ‘Shape It Up’ tasks you with creating your picture by using only a selection of pre-set shapes; and ‘Off Hand’ asks you to work with your least favourite hand. We’ve seen uDraw Pictionary being played on numerous occasions at several preview events over the past few months, and every time the unending laughter has caused the game to dominate the attention of everyone in the room, with orderly queues forming in mere seconds. If you’re a fan of the ever-beloved board game (and quite frankly, who isn’t?) then you owe it to yourself to check this out.
Watch the uDraw Pictionary trailer here: