Creating a masterpiece with your DS will be child’s play.
Firstly, let me get something off my chest, so to speak. I don’t have a problem with video games that try to teach you things. My problem lies with the fact that the majority of these “edutainment” titles are quite simply not fun. They try to trick the child/adult into learning by using what they believe to be fun little games and I don’t like being tricked. This is the attitude that I had when going into this game.
But, to be honest, I was barking up the wrong tree right from the start. Just because a game offers to teach you something, does not make it one of the dreaded “edutainment” titles. Art Academy from Nintendo offers to teach you the intricacies of drawing and painting using the perfectly suited DS touch screen and stylus. Also, because Art Academy offers to teach you, or help improve with, what is essentially a hobby, it is very difficult to begrudge its attempts to educate you in the subject.
So what have I learnt so far? Art Academy cannot be put into the same class as other “teaching” games. Also, I have learnt that I may be slightly “game prejudiced”. All of that aside, is Art Academy any good? Can it teach someone like myself, who can barely draw the curtains, to create a masterpiece?
The game offers two modes: the lessons and free paint. You are also introduced to the likable character of leonardo (I will leave your imaginations to work out where the inspiration for this character came from) who will be your guide, tutor and personal confidante (or maybe just two of the three)
The main meat of this application is in the lessons mode. There are ten lessons in total that will take you from the very basics of drawing simple shapes, through shading, texturing and blending. The lessons move forward at a very easy pace and build quite fluidly from the early scribblings through to creating something that actually looks half way good.
Free paint mode is where the budding artist will likely have the most fun though, testing out their new found skills. Those of you struggling for inspiration can use the DSi camera to take a picture, which will then be displayed in the top screen as reference. The tools available, such as pencils of different softness and round/flat tipped brushes, combined with the artists palette that lets you mix your own shades of paint, allow for some seriously impressive pieces of art to be created.
Saving your creations to the gallery allows the artist to show them off at a later time. But herein lies a flaw in the otherwise very impressive piece of software. Art Academy is available to download from the DSiWare store, in two parts. As this option is only available to owners of the DSi or DSiXL, the downloaded version has the added ability to save the pictures to an SD card and then take them away for use elsewhere. This is not something possible on the DS, so that option is not included.
Has Art Academy turned me into an artist? Well, no. But that is not through lack of trying on the application’s part, and my stickmen look awesome now. The real question is why would anyone bother with a piece of software like this? Surely if you want to paint a picture, get some paint and a canvas and get on with it? The quality that you can achieve with the stylus and touch screen is never going to be as good as the real thing, so what’s the point?
What Art Academy does offer though, is options. For anyone who is interested in learning how to paint, or even for those budding artists who just need to brush up their skills, Art Academy offers a way to learn, or improve, skills that are just as applicable with real paint and canvas. It is also far more portable and much less messy. Anyone with artistic tendencies and a Nintendo handheld will do well to pick this up. It is by far the best painting application on the DS.