Few gamemakers have run the gamut the way David Jaffe has, be it his early forays into destruction with Twisted Metal, his stint as a AAA figurehead with God of War and God of War II, or his detour toward the wacky with Calling All Cars! Considering these, arriving at Drawn to Death is only logical, and whether or not you can get behind its overwhelmingly juvenile “charm” has little to do with what lies beneath the surface. Drawn to Death is an amusing, edgy, surprisingly deep and occasionally frustrating chalkish cavort, one that fully intends to writhe in its own gruesome delight regardless of what you may think of it.
Rudy’s Got the Chalk
Sporting an artstyle that can be neatly summed up as “ChalkZone from hell,” Drawn to Death aims largely to force its players to pay more attention than they normally would in a typical arena shooter. This begins immediately in both presentation and voice performance; graphics resemble the notebook scribblings of what you might imagine Sid from Toy Story would contrive, while commentators berate the losing side and ridicule everyone without relent through the entirety of the experience. This is clear within minutes, yet Drawn to Death pulls no punches full-well knowing that half the people playing will hate it. Like the aforementioned troubled child who tortures his toys, dissent only encourages Jaffe and crew further, their cackles emanating from the maw of characters like Alan the chainsaw-wielding rodent as he declares foes shall “suck my lumbersexual fuck stick.” Consider yourself warned.
Game modes in Drawn to Death are fairly standard, with dual deathmatches garnished by a comparatively creative outing known as Organ Donor, involving the collection of coveted hearts which are cashed in for points. Regardless of mode, there’s a level of rote memorization to Drawn to Death, and this is where some players are likely to fall off the wagon. If you consider committing the abilities and specials of each and every character, all of whom differ drastically, to be a chore, then you’re likely to grow weary of Drawn to Death almost immediately. Surviving bouts is not just about knowing what your character can do, but knowing what each opponent can do, and as such participants are likely to be either emboldened to try and master them all, or simply toss the game aside after being mocked for the 20th time by the snarkiest announcers known to man. I didn’t think it was possible, but the commentary here matches the snide, irascible cheddar of even MadWorld. Milestone achieved, I think.
Matches are small, with a max player-count of four that ultimately yields strategy after feeling limited for the first half-dozen or so matches. We’ll stick with analyzing Alan; the disturbed rat can hurl his chainsaw for huge devastation, but it needs to be manually retrieved. Miss the target, and you’ll not only be out of luck, but also unable to access his second ability “The Flying Death.” There are also abilities that offer clear advantages against most characters but not all – Alan’s invisibility is a boon if your match lacks Cyborgula, but you’ll be spotted by the robo-vamp immediately if he does happen to be present. These permutations apply across the gamut of characters, and steadily committing pros and cons to memory (or consulting the game’s fast-growing wiki) will, again, prove either a challenge or a chore depending on the player. I tend to fall into the former camp.
Jaffe has been clear in asserting that weapons should never supersede skill, and as such customizable loadouts in Drawn to Death come down to personal preference as opposed to assembling any sort of tangible advantage. Weapons are fully inline with the game’s crusty persona, ranging from a rocket-launcher SNES that hurls ruinous JRPG carts (har, har), to a volatile coffin that launches dead bodies, the caveat being that the corpses themself must be continuously supplied. The weapons total is impressive and more than you’ll likely attempt to master, and combined with the strategic variety of the game’s roster there’s plenty of OCD chicanery to go around. Especially for a game that, for PS Plus members anyway, is essentially free.
My Art Is for Me
The potential downsides of Drawn to Death are obvious, and if you hate the humor or find it offensive it’s probably impossible for you to enjoy the game. What’s also possible and far more unfortunate is if you don’t mind the style, but get aggravated when losses activate repeated exposure to beratement and mockery. It sounds harmless, but videogames can be frustrating, and I’ve little doubt some players struggling with the learning curve will simply toss Drawn to Death aside, wondering “why am I doing this” as they burn through precious after-work free time being teased by a disturbed child’s notebook doodles.
Otherwise Drawn to Death is great fun, perhaps held back by its style in the eyes of some, and notably plagued by microtransactions that, while not terribly insulting, probably shouldn’t be there at all considering its status as a free game is only temporary (and nonexistent to the non-PS Plus crowd). Still, these are minor hangups, and amassing cosmetic enhancements (often quite galling, like everything else in the game) is less important in the end than enjoying its strategic layers, even if the former will probably require you to cough up some cash if you’re the type who simply must have everything. As amusing as Drawn to Death is, even the most dedicated player will probably start to wonder what he’s doing with his life if it’s played for too long. My tip: use moderation to avoid frustration. Not to mention all-encompassing despair.
It’s clear David Jaffe never intended to win over his haters, but with Drawn to Death he’ll certainly win new fans. More likely to be enjoyed by those who stumble upon it or pick it up on a whim rather than hotly anticipate it, the game packs more depth than you’re likely expecting if you can bring yourself to stick with it long enough and endure humor that some will no-doubt find intolerable. Admittedly the best games rarely suffer from this issue, but here the creator has been there and done that; Drawn to Death is what is, nothing more and nothing less, and those who can bear it are in for something crass, vulgar, and utterly enjoyable. Oh, and a word to the wise – the nightmares induced by the game’s cast subside after just a few days. If you do abandon Drawn to Death, don’t let that be the reason.