Who could forget the beloved 50 year-old children’s toy, Etch A Sketch. You know, that rectangular red and grey gizmo that lets you unleash your creativity by using knobs to draw horizontal and vertical lines on a blank screen, and then shake it to start over? Of course you do.
Now you can download a digital version of this classic toy, which goes above and beyond the original in the game-play department. In fact, it’s really a few separate games and activities in one, and well worth the $20 purchase.
Etch A Sketch – yep, it’s still goes by the same name – is a casual game with four individual modes available from the main menu. The meatiest is “Knobby’s Quest,” a story-driven campaign that puts a spin on classic fairy tales. You play as Knobby, a small circular and grey dude who must navigate through obstacle-laden levels to reach the portal at the end, along with finding artifacts and rescuing hapless little creatures called Knergies (presumably pronounced “kinergies”).
By using the mouse to draw lines on the screen you must help Knobby through familiar but modified tales including Ugly Duck King, Cinderfeller and Sleepless Beauty. It seems Grizelda the nasty witch has “shaken” things up in the kingdom and you must restore order by advancing through the stages. It may look like a platformer game, and yes, there’s a bit of jumping and gem-collecting involved, but it’s really a puzzle game because you must study the path Knobby must take and draw lines to help him get there, such as drawing a ramp from a low spot to a higher one.
Enemies like spiders will hurt Knobby if they touch him so you must draw a line on the screen to prevent the contact; another slash across the enemy can stun him or you can draw a line from ignited TNT to the creature, like a fuse. This same tactic can be used to destroy boxes to free innocent knergies. You get the idea. This drawing component resembles games like Capcom’s Okami (but I haven’t yet seen it in a casual space) mixed with classic puzzlers like Lemmings or Vikings.
Levels get increasingly tough over time but you should be able to complete all the challenges in about five or six hours.
A second game mode, “Knobby’s Bounce,” will be familiar to ’80s arcade fans who dumped plenty of quarters into “Arkanoid” or “Breakout.” By drawing lines on the screen you must keep Knobby from hitting spikes or falling down pits so that he can bounce around on the screen and touch all the gems and other objects to destroy them. Some are in bubbles, therefore they first need to be popped to reveal the items inside. When all the items are cleared you move onto the next level.
There is also a puzzle component here as some levels have rules you must follow, such as hitting three of the same-colored bubbles in succession to destroy them instead of randomly hitting bubbles on the level. As a special treat, one level is nearly identical to the ball-bouncing arcade games that influenced this mode.
These two modes offer 78 levels in total.
Two additional modes are more activities than games, and are reminiscent of the original Etch A Sketch. In “Etch,” you can use the four arrow keys (or use your mouse on an on-screen compass) to draw on the screen, save or print your creation or make wallpaper with it. You can also email your drawing to someone – right from within the game – but when I sent myself an email with a crudely-drawn house, it never arrived in my inbox. Hmm.
The final mode is a “Color Sketch” art studio that lets you import your black and white drawings to color them and use other tools to dress them up. Great idea! A few pre-made pieces of art are included, too.
Etch A Sketch might be based on a classic toy but it’s a refreshingly new way to play and create for casual gamers. It offers a lot of fun for not a lot of money and is perfect for kids (mainly the “Etch” modes) and teens or adults (for the tougher puzzle-based quest mode). Attractive graphics, music and silly sound effects and voices also add to its overall appeal.