Review: Pokémon Art Academy

Kick back and draw some Pokémon.

By Iain Farrell. Posted 09/12/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Super charming; very high production values; a really relaxing way to spend your time.
Poison Mushroom for...
Nintendo and sharing outside of its ecosystem still don't go hand in hand.

The following review is based upon the European version of Pokémon Art Academy.

I love to draw with technology. I had an early Android tablet but it was the ability to use incredible drawing apps that pushed me over the edge and buy an iPad. That might make something like Pokémon Art Academy appeal to me more, because as someone who loves the visual arts it makes sense to me that all this technology that we normally associate with gaming can be employed to do more.

Now, I fully accept that this isn’t for everyone, and many of you reading this now will immediately dismiss PAA, especially at its £29.99 price point. I did, initially, especially when we live in a world of low priced and powerful drawing apps on other portable devices; the super powerful high-res drawing app I use on my tablet, for example, cost £7, and heavyweights like Adobe give away their software for free! But then those pieces of software aren’t made by Nintendo and from the moment you start using PAA there’s a warmth and polish to the presentation that is immediately pleasing.

In traditional Pokémon style you start the game by being introduced to a kindly older and wiser guide. Professor Andy helps by admitting you to the Academy, introducing you to a fellow student, and the game cleverly doesn’t squander the good feeling generated by its hand drawn charm and starts you on your first exercise. This is what sets it apart from other drawing software. This doesn’t present you with a potentially crippling blank canvas. Instead it employs the notion of a curriculum of lessons combined with story elements to make this a fully realised Nintendo piece of software rather than what we might have come to expect from a mobile app.

An early lesson in Pokemon Art Academy

The lessons start very simply, playing to a very young user and were particularly enjoyable to my heavily pregnant wife as it happens. She’s not a natural artist but the step by step approach, breaking each Pokémon down into basic shapes and then gradually filling in the shapes with colour and different materials worked for both of us. It’s also very satisfying to get to the end of a piece, have it look like it’s supposed to and be able to save it to the SD card. I shared many a creation with friends on social networks, whether they wanted to see my Pikachu or not!

As the lessons became more complex, though, that was when the best part of this game really became clear to me. You know how after a long day at the office it feels great to do something totally different, like wash up or drive somewhere, or take some exercise? Well, this is so completely different that I felt it really relaxed me. If anything, this piece of software is the antidote to stress. Approached as a bit of fun it happily fills hours and distracts from your woes in a completely refreshing way to a traditional game. I was completely surprised and utterly won over. It’s casual in the sense that you can dip in and out, but over time you feel like you’re making something, not just pushing around objects and responding to stimulus. Play some mindless mobile game for hours and what have you got? A Facebook wall filled with angry friends who don’t want to be your friend anymore or play with you. Pick up your 3DS and sure, you might not have a masterpiece but you have something you made and I think that’s a rare and brilliant thing.

Mixed material piece from Pokemon Art Academy

It’s not for everyone, and it’s not without shortcomings; the classic Nintendo fear of direct connection to the Internet and social networks, for example, seems like an obvious thing to include, maybe even connection to something like Flickr? It is charming and enjoyable, though, and that’s all I want from a piece of software I enjoy on a mobile device. Treat yourself and make some time. It’ll surprise you.

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