Drawn: Trail of Shadows

Posted by Jess Beebe.
First posted on 22 November 2011. Last updated on 23 November 2011.
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Drawn: Trail of Shadows
The painting is the only escape from the burning room.
Drawn: Trail of Shadows
A patch of flowers seems to be blocking the path, but drawing on the easel may help to clear the way.
Drawn: Trail of Shadows
A dark forest has a piece of it torn out by the wizard.
Drawn: Trail of Shadows
Gigantic topiaries occupy the beautiful garden.
Drawn: Trail of Shadows
Huge monkey statues stand tall in an underground cavern.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows Collector's Edition

The Collector's Edition includes a new location with bonus gameplay, screensavers, and original artwork not found in the original.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows is the third game in the Drawn series from Big Fish Games Studios. The previous games, Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn: Dark Flight, tell the story of a young girl named Iris with a magical ability whose life is endangered by a shadowy villain. The second game ends with Iris vanquishing her enemy and taking her place as the rightful ruler of the kingdom of Stonebriar. With an ending as conclusive as this, fans of the series may be left wondering what direction the third game will take, since there does not seem to be any more story left to tell.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows begins with a narration from Franklin, Iris' elderly guardian. Franklin tells Iris the story of a young boy who has the ability—just like Iris—to create paintings that can become doorways into magical worlds. He also speaks of an evil wizard who kidnaps the boy in order to use the boy's powers to cloak the world in darkness. As the introduction ends, the player is put in a burning room, standing in front of a painting that the wizard has just disappeared into. It quickly becomes apparent that the player's mission is to follow the wizard into the painting and rescue the boy before the wizard's plans are put into motion.

Like the previous games, the graphics in Drawn: Trail of Shadows are enchanting and immersive. The landscapes are lovingly detailed and incredibly varied—over the course of the game, the player travels through a resplendent field of bright flowers, a rocky and frigid mountaintop, and a gloomy cavern filled with phosphorescent waters. The graphics are also enhanced such that the foreground and background will move very slightly in parallax as the mouse moves across the screen, creating a pseudo 3D effect that makes the scenes seem even more alive (this can be turned off if the player finds it too distracting).

The animation in Drawn: Trail of Shadows is just as impressive as the graphics, whether it is as small as a few leaves blowing by or as large as a colossal stone giant reaching towards the player. Even when the 3D animation is implemented, the game nearly always manages to keep its traditionally animated look, making it appear very much like a living 2D painting.

The music in Drawn: Trail of Shadows varies from peaceful and whimsical to ominous and brooding, each piece fitting its scene perfectly. It has the same grand orchestral feel of the music from the earlier games. Likewise, even the happiest pieces have a bittersweet undertone—subtly reminding the player that, as beautiful as this magical world is, danger lurks just around the corner.

Much like the previous games, Drawn: Trail of Shadows features a good number of puzzles that involve coloring in sketches or tracing the outlines of shapes to create various objects. It is a simple mechanic, but it still retains its charm—it is hard not to feel enchanted when the picture of a bird the player has just finished coloring transforms into a real bird with a burst of light and sound. However, other puzzles can start to feel a bit repetitive, especially if the player has already played the other games in the series. In fact, a particular puzzle from Drawn: Trail of Shadows that involves arranging symbols to create sketches which tell a story is a near exact copy of a puzzle from Drawn: The Painted Tower. Still, there is occasionally a new sort of challenge to be found, such as a puzzle made entirely out of drawings on a chalkboard with sounds and animation like an 8-bit arcade game.

The interface used in Drawn: Trail of Shadows is nearly identical to that used in the earlier games. A single cursor is used for interacting with items on the screen, and inventory items are stored in a bar at the bottom of the screen (which can be adjusted to always show or only show when the mouse moves to the bottom of the screen). A chalkboard icon on the left side of this bar lists the current objective and also provides hints when clicked on.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows features a difficulty setting. If the player chooses to play in Casual mode, hotspots on the screen will be highlighted with a patch of sparkles and puzzles can be skipped after a certain amount of time has passed. Experienced mode, not too surprisingly, lacks these helping features.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows is both similar and different to the games that it follows. The plot is much like the first game, only with a gifted boy in need of rescue instead of a gifted girl. However, at the same time, the story's direction is a departure from that spanning the previous games, and the connection between this game and its predecessors is not made clear until the end (though some sharper players may see what is going on much sooner). Interestingly, there are several cameos from both Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn: Dark Flight to be found in Drawn: Trail of Shadows. For example, a particular puzzle consists of a croquet course where the player is playing against a character from the second game, and the course itself is designed to look like the various settings from the first game.

Despite the game's many beautiful scenes and entertaining puzzles, Drawn: Trail of Shadows seems somewhat shorter and less grand in scale than the previous games in the series. This may be partially due to the way the game is split up into several different worlds that cannot be revisited once all the puzzles in each world are completed. The plot, minimal as it is, may be slightly disappointing for fans wanting to know more about Iris' story, but for others, it still may be worth following to the end (though admittedly, the ending is a bit anticlimactic). Drawn: Trail of Shadows may not pose much of a challenge to seasoned adventurers, but for adventure fans looking for a fun game with beautiful graphics and have a few hours to kill, this game is definitely worth a shot.

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