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For: DS

Say what you see

Product: PictoImage | Publisher: Sega | Format: DS | Genre: Casual, Multiplayer, Party/ mini- games, Puzzle | Players: 1-8 | Networking: Bluetooth | Version: Europe
PictoImage DS, thumbnail 1
If you've ever played Pictionary then you'll no doubt be familiar with the concept of drawing childish doodles on scraps of paper and then whipping yourself into an exasperated fury because no one in your dim-witted family seems able to comprehend what your hasty scribbling is supposed to represent. It's one of life's little luxuries, we like to think.

Picture charades is a fantastic party game that permits you to indulge your creative side - even if the eventual results fail to even slightly resemble the object you're trying to replicate.

Taking into account the social appeal of this pastime as well as its reliance on pen and paper, the decision to take the core idea and reconstruct it within the dual-screened frame of the Nintendo DS might initially strike you as a foolhardy one; however, PictoImage - which is Pictionary in all but name - does so regardless and in many ways provides a viable (if not always entirely convincing) alternative.

The core gameplay involves you being given an object to draw, which you then present to your relative/friend/household pet and task them with identifying it.

While this might seem like a fairly straightforward proposition, PictoImage nevertheless comes with a 'How to Draw' tutorial mode which gives in-depth directives on how to sketch a wide variety of different things, each divided into four main categories: Animals, Objects, Food and Other.

The idea is that practice in this particular portion of the game will boost your aptitude elsewhere, but we're not entirely convinced it offers any tangible benefit other than gently passing the time of day.

As you might imagine, simply sketching random objects doesn't hold your attention for very long (especially when you consider that the traditional 'pen and paper' approach works just as well and won't set you back £20, unless you happen to use gold-leaf papyrus and a diamond-encrusted pencil, obviously), so the game also showcases the 'Picto Image' mode.

Here you're presented with 300 different drawings submitted by people of all ages and given the job of correctly classifying each image. This is easier said than done as some of the drawings (usually the ones created by kids) are near-impossible to recognise, and we were forced to skip several of them after spending what seemed like hours inputting all the possible answers.

Speaking of interface (were we? - ed) the one featured in PictoImage is surprisingly robust. The game encourages the use of the touchscreen and boasts handwriting recognition. Despite some minor inconsistencies (writing 'I' is particularly problematic) the system works well, although for all its novelty we still found ourselves reverting to the more traditional on-screen keyboard option after a few minutes play.

As you might expect, PictoImage only really comes to life when you amass friends to join in with the doodling fun. The multiplayer mode expands on the two-player game by fostering a spirit of competition; one person draws the object and up to seven others race against the clock to correctly identify it. Team play is slightly different in that (as the title might suggest) you can buddy up with friends and take on another group of players.

One of the most entertaining modes has to be Picture Pass, which is almost like a pictorial version of Chinese Whispers. Here, one player is given an object to draw, and then they show his image to the next in line, who has to copy that image as accurately as possible. He passes his facsimile to the next player, and so on, until it reaches the final participant.

If they can correctly identify what the image is (and by this point it may not bear any resemblance to the original, depending on the skill of the other players) then points are awarded. Other modes, such as Picture Race and Grade Play further augment the social appeal of PictoImage, but sadly they highlight the brevity of the solo game at the same time; it's understandably difficult to go back to the single player game when you've experienced the joyous highs that the multiplayer modes offer.

We're also sad to report that all of this multiplayer malarkey is strictly localised, as PictoImage doesn't support online play - which is a real oversight when you consider that there will be plenty of times when you won't be able entice anyone nearby to join you in a friendly game.

Sure, it could be argued that PictoImage is better when played with people in close proximity so that you can fall about laughing over failed guesses, but it doesn't change the fact without an online mode you're highly likely to simply disregard PictoImage in favour of something else.

If you're the kind of gamer who values solo play and isn't keen on letting others impinge on your enjoyment then sadly you've wasted your time reading the review this far - PictoImage simply isn't for you.

As a game it thrives on social contact and is probably one of the best multiplayer titles available for any handheld system, DS or otherwise, but when you're alone the appeal is drastically diminished. It's a real shame that the developer couldn't have included some more captivating single player modes to even things out a little.
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 16 October 2008
With a group of like-minded friends PictoImage is worth its weight in gold, but sadly the single player portion of the game is far less essential
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