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For: Mobile

We were drawn to this one

Product: Sketcher | Developer: Neowiz Mobile | Publisher: eFusion Mobile | Format: Mobile | Genre: Casual, Music/ Rhythm, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 313KB | Reviewed on: N95 other handsets | Version: Europe
Sketcher Mobile, thumbnail 1
Recreational runners, eh? They slog around for mile after mile, more often than not sucking on car exhaust fumes, sweating bullets and dodging shoppers and cyclists, and for what? A healthy heart and lungs, an adrenaline high, and the zen-like state that can be achieved after a rhythmic few miles, that's what.

Indeed, a couple of the Pocket Gamer team enjoy getting out into the open air and stretching our legs. But we never thought we'd come across a game that managed to emulate the real-world feeling in the way that golf, tennis or football has been. Seemingly there's a demand for a game catering to the runner in us all, though, with Nom and now this, Sketcher, having been released in the space of a few months. And, like that monochromatic competitor, Sketcher is less a sports game and more a rhythm/puzzle game.

A hand-drawn character in your exercise book, Sketcher is your daydream escape from a dull school lesson, university lecture or office meeting. Facing a series of difficult courses littered with hazards, it's up to you to draw in ramps, bridges and jumps that enable Sketcher to bypass them without succumbing to their danger.

What ensues is a sideways scrolling affair where the titular Sketcher, who runs like Forrest Gump without ever ceasing, jogs from left to right along a predetermined course. When you spot a hazard in the simple line-drawn environment it's up to you to press the right key to draw in the relevant item needed for Sketcher to avoid it.

So, spot a gap in the floor coming up and you press '2' to draw in a pencil line, bridging the hole. Spy a spiky obstacle and you must hit '4' to sketch in a rudimentary jump, enabling the spiky-haired sprinter to leap over it.

The action continues in this manner until you reach the end of the stage, marked by a progress bar at the bottom of the screen, or until you miss enough hazards to entirely deplete Sketcher's health, indicated at the top of the screen by the equalizer bars.

And that, in a nutshell, is it. In total you've got six hand-drawn devices to help your pencil-shaded pal – two ramps, a bridge and three jumps of varying height. Get from A to Z without incident and that's it.

Winning comes down to timing, your memory and your reflexes. Given a decent-sized screen you can see the hazards coming in enough time to easily press a key to fill in a ramp, say, but managing to fit the right ramp or jump is much harder.

With six of these aids, each attached to the number keys '1' through '6', it's a monumental feat to get through even the first few levels without having to return to the start, defeated. It is, arguably, too many buttons to remember and then use – you try fumbling with a small Nokia keypad in the heat of the moment – especially when the game's so picky with their use.

You'd have thought that, really, you could simply drop a high jump where a low one is needed, but no; for some pernickety reason, you have to fit the exact springboard into the desired gap. Not only is this incredibly frustrating, it's also counter-intuitive. Why can't you use a jump to leap a gap in the floor, for example, when the horizontal distance you cover is, when used properly, more than adequate?

It's the realisation that you're not as free to drop devices into the level as you initially expect that eventually hurts Sketcher like an eraser to the head. Imagine instead drawing jump after well-timed jump to literally spring Sketcher higher and higher into the sky to reach hidden bonuses, for example, and how cool it would be.

Thankfully, a series of mini-games to unlock add something that running-mate Nom lacked: depth and long-term replayability. Six are on offer, the first opening up after you complete level eight, and there's even a freestyle mini-game where you really can play with the ramps, bridges and jumps as you see fit.

The mini-games are the prize at the end of a sometimes excruciatingly hard slog – this is a properly difficult game to get to grips with – and are the sole reason for persisting in the face of adversity.

They raise Sketcher up from being an over-conceptualised, under-delivering puzzle/rhythm title to a rewarding, satisfying experience that, while not quite as revolutionary as it would have you believe, is a genuinely good game.
Reviewer photo
Mike Abolins | 11 June 2007
Involving and infuriating in equal measure, stick with Sketcher and you'll be richly rewarded
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