Big Fish Games is known for its Mystery Casefiles series, the premier hidden objects game series on PC. So, when BFG announced in 2009 that it will be developing an entirely different game in 2009, I got curious and wondered what it’s gonna be.
The result is Drawn: The Painted Tower, and while it has a lot of similarities with later MCF games, it has subtle differences from those games making it a wholly unique game.
In preparation for the sequel, Dark Flight, I decided to revisit this game two weeks ago.
Painted Tower is classified as an adventure-puzzle game, and was named such because of the game’s setting, a tower in a seaside town. The objective of the game is to rescue Iris at the top of the tower. It’s not an easy task, as an evil curse is placed upon the tower, and you will need Iris’ help to undo the curse of the tower.
The game has many similarities with latter MCF games such as Ravenhearst or Dire Grove. You navigate areas by clicking some portions of the still screen, usually an portion that denotes a passageway (your mouse pointer will change into an arrow if you point into these areas).
Searching for objects is still an integral part of the game, but the item is usually given as an answer to a riddle, or as an object you need because you need to do something (for example, if you need to dig something, you need a shovel, of course). If an item is collectible, your mouse will transform into a hand. Just click an item to put it into your inventory. Some items needs to be combined first to make the item needed, or processed somewhere.
If you hover your mouse over the screen and it transforms into a jigsaw piece, it means that you need an item to fix it. Searching for the items is not usually straightforward, for some, you need to solve a “hidden objective” or a “hidden step” before you actually acquire the item, and I do admit I was stumped several times in the game because of this. Areas with unfinished objectives show sparkles to guide you as well.
Part of the objective is unraveling the mystery of the game. You get snippets either through cinematics, by reading journals or by talking to some characters in the game. (You can talk to someone if you point into it and your mouse pointer transforms into a conversation cloud.)
Iris is the princess of a kingdom who was destroyed by an evil chancellor. She was saved by Franklin, and they escaped and found refuge in the tower. Their location was discovered, and a curse is placed to prevent anyone from saving Iris. Iris has a unique power, she can transform drawings into reality, and you will need this to complete some objectives in the game. You will also borrow this ability once you get the magic chalk, which you will need to draw something.
The game is subdivided into chapters, each one marked by at least one painting. (One level didn’t use a painting, however.) Some paintings need to be fixed first before you can be able to enter the world inside the painting. Another unique feature with these alternate worlds is that, sketches collected outside will come to life inside.
But the biggest bulk of gameplay is probably devoted to puzzle-solving, and Painted Tower has some of the most diabolical puzzles I have ever encountered. (I can only imagine how tough the puzzles in Dark Flight might be.) To give you an idea, I decided to compile the ten toughest puzzles in the game.
You can get hints for these puzzles (and other objectives too) by clicking on Franklin’s portrait, but you can skip the puzzles altogether when the progress bar at the top of the screen is already filled (but where’s the fun in that?). So here are the hardest puzzles in the game:
Recipe for SuccessIn the game’s first major stumper, you will need to prepare the ingredient for a potion, and the instruction is tricky. The first sentence doesn’t indicate which one will go first, and the powder that is the color of night is not what you think it is. In addition, two unused additional bottles of powder is included to throw you off. If you’re royally stuck, Franklin will reveal the correct sequence in the third hint.
The Root of the ProblemAt the bottom of the tree resides a large spider, and you blind it by clicking on its eyes. The puzzle is reminiscent of Lights Out, clicking an eye will switch it as well as the eyes above, below, to the left and to the right. The eyes will disappear if it’s visible, and vice versa. This means that to blind it, you need to make every eyes disappear. This puzzle is a bit easy, though there might be some scare factor because of the huge spider.
Cleaning the TreehouseAfter moving the rag on top of the treehouse, you will encounter this puzzle, which is just plain frustrating. The objective of this puzzle is to position the pieces into their corresponding colors and position. Click on a nail to rotate the pieces surrounding the nail in a clockwise direction. Positioning four colors is quite easy, but in most cases, you end up with the fifth unmatched colors ending up in each other’s spot, which causes the frustration.
A Show of ColorThe theater level is probably the hardest of the levels, because there are damn too many puzzles, item-hunting and backtracking to be done here. The first of the hard puzzles here is this painting puzzle, where you need to paint the shapes in such a way that no two shapes that touch each other will have the same color.
A Star is BornBefore you catch a falling star, the merchant in the night level will challenge you to a checkers-type puzzle whose objective is to make the blue pawn end up in the middle square and everything else eliminated. Like in checkers, you remove a piece by jumping over it.
Flowers for the CastBefore you run the final show, you need to make a seed grow into a plant, then make it bloom. You grow the plant at daytime by hitting it with sunlight, which you’ll manipulate with the aid of mirrors, then, once fully grown, will bloom when hit by moonlight at night.
ShowtimeMaking the hero was actually easy, it’s just that there are too many things to do to make it. The hardest part is the actual show. The hero will meet three characters (a knight, a dragon and a princess), and you need to select the three correct items to survive and create a happy ending. The knight is the stumper, and the item you need is creatively clever.
Stone CirclesThe puzzle on the door leading to the Hall of Giants is a tough nut to crack, and I skipped it the first time because I was confused with the mechanics of the puzzle. The objective of the game is to swap pieces in the circles so that two adjacent ends share the same digit, and adds up to the number in the middle. To solve the puzzle, start with 15, since you know that it is equal to 1+2+3+4+5.
Friend or Foe?This puzzle requires that you follow the instructions carefully. Pulling the lion’s hair will move certain portions of its teeth, and you need to figure out the correct sequence to pull up all the lion’s teeth. Then, once solved, you need to figure the correct picture of the gate by rotating them. Hint: the gate is horizontally, vertically and diagonally symmetrical.
An Uneasy PieceThe last of the hard puzzles is found in the gryphon’s room, early on. Notice on the green glass in the ceiling? Clicking on the eyes will move it to a predetermined number spaces either clockwise or counter-clockwise. The objective of the game? Make it stop directly in the green arrow. The second puzzle in the room later is easier, because you just have the memorize the sequence of the glowing buttons on the floor.
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Despite being a challenge, I still think the first Drawn game is too short. I estimated my first run of the game to fall within 4–6 hours. It’s just about right, though. We should also take into consideration that this is the initial game in the series, it was loosely patterned after MCF, and many of the game features are still in their experimental phases.
I think it’s also a wise move for BFG to make Drawn slightly similar to MCF. Item hunting may have diminished in value here, but it’s still challenging, particularly in later stages, because the items were cleverly hidden or camouflaged, or the items needed became less obvious. Sadly, the drawing aspect of the game feels under-utilized. I’ll be looking forward to more creative uses of it in Dark Flight.
The artwork in the game is downright gorgeous, and it should be. It actually helped raise the illusion of 3D, since you’re actually looking at still pictures, and the use of hand-drawn graphics instead of rendered graphics is just fitting.