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Review: Drawn to Death

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Crude but competent

From the mind of Twisted Metal and God of War designer David Jaffe comes Drawn to Death, a multiplayer-only arena shooter set within the doodle-filled confines of a teenager's notebook.

This is a world in which a shark-headed ninja can grapple-hook her way past a self-destructing cyborg vampire, or a punk rocker can wield a pooping monkey against an invisible chainsaw-toting butcher.

It's as weird as it sounds.

Drawn to Death (PS4)
Developer: The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: April 4, 2017
MSRP: $19.99 (free with PlayStation Plus subscription)

The crude hand-drawn art direction makes a strong but not necessarily good first impression, as does the game's intentionally over-the-top juvenile sense of humor. But even if those elements fall flat for you, trust me when I say this is a nuanced shooter, one that's possible to enjoy in spite of them.

As an online game that's free with PlayStation Plus this month, I worry that subscribers will be curious enough to dig into the absolutely necessary tutorial only to get turned off by the super-talkative "edgy" narration and it'll cause them to bail. That'd be a shame. Drawn to Death doesn't reveal its true depth until you've gotten a dozen matches under your belt (if not more), and new tricks will continue bubbling up as you unlock wacky or otherwise atypical weapons and get a better feel for each character's complexities.

The game carves out a nice little niche for itself as a small but focused arena-style shooter complete with weapon, ammo, and health pick-ups, environmental kill opportunities, and minuscule match sizes (it's two vs. two at most). That setup and scope feels old-school, sometimes to a fault, but the characters come across as more modern with intricate abilities that run on a cooldown.

My favorite of the six is Cyborgula. Every character has a huge, floaty jump to accommodate for Drawn to Death's vertical map layouts, but he can stay in the air even longer with his vampire wings, enabling me to more easily lock on and launch a missile array or dive down for a head-on attack. If that isn't enough -- a likely outcome, considering how large players' health pools are -- I can launch some explosive game cartridges with my JRPG. Or, if it's a close match and I need to pull out something amazing to hit the winning score threshold, there's always the Hand, a once-per-match Hail Mary move in which you leap atop a floating hand and can devastate your papery foes with smart timing.

Drawn to Death is designed such that each of the characters handle very differently. Your proficiency and tactics with one won't always transfer to another (for instance: I'm totally worthless as Ninjaw), and things get trickier when you take into account customizable weapon loadouts. Who goes best with what? I'm still slowly figuring that out. What's more, everyone has a unique advantage and disadvantage, though some are more important to keep in mind than others. Alan, the murderous butcher, inherently does bonus melee damage against the devilish Diabla, but my boy Cyborgula can see right through his cloak ability. If it weren't clear already, it takes time to feel at home with this game.

Most of the depth is left to the characters, the way they work off one another, and the game's handful of secret-filled maps. In terms of modes, Drawn to Death ends up feeling rather limited.

You're looking at a pair of deathmatch modes and Organ Donor, a mode in which you drop a heart when you die and points are obtained by ever-so-slowly banking hearts at a drop-off point. There are wrinkles to freshen up these familiar offerings -- including ways to actually subtract from the opposition's score, or subvert the game's standard air-drop-in respawn for an instant revive at half your normal health -- but they eventually shed their novelty. So too does the vulgar announcer.

As much as I don't care for Drawn to Death's hard-to-ignore grating tone, the attention to detail present in its scribbled characters, world, and menus does shine through. I find myself getting really invested in matches when it's a full two-on-two game where spamming the same old weapons, explosives, and abilities is less likely to cut it as a viable "strategy." Unfortunately, as it stands, those adrenaline-pumping matches aren't the norm -- not nearly enough people are playing yet. In the event that a team match begins with three people, it compensates by giving the short-handed player a massive buff. I don't think I've ever lost as the lone player, but it's still a position I'd prefer never to be placed in.

There's hope for Drawn to Death to grow into something more, and my fingers are crossed that it does. After not quite a week, I've just about had my fill and don't feel compelled to stick around for cosmetic unlocks earned from drawn-out blind boxes. With new modes and characters, another pass at balancing, and some matchmaking options, I could see myself coming back. Until then, I'm good.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game downloaded for free with PlayStation Plus.]


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Drawn to Death reviewed by Jordan Devore

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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Jordan Devore
Jordan DevoreCo-EIC   gamer profile

Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random. Disclosure: I backed Double Fine Adventure and Awesomenauts: Starstorm on Kickst... more + disclosures


 



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