I don’t normally write the reviews due to my health as it would take me a lot of time and effort to finish the games, create videos and write the reviews. Fortunately not only did Draw A Stickman: EPIC‘s developer Hitcents send me a review code over a week ago, giving me enough time to finish the game and write a full review before its release, but neither its Kinect nor joypad controls require much effort to play so I didn’t get too ill after each session.
So here’s my review of Draw A Stickman: EPIC for Xbox One, which includes a video I created featuring a brief demo of how the Kinect controls work along with a 9 minute montage of short gameplay clips:
Draw A Stickman: EPIC is an ID@Xbox action-adventure puzzle game by independent developer Hitcents in which you have to not only draw your character and your friend but also various objects during the game in order to overcome obstacles, solve puzzles and fight enemies so that you can rescue your friend from a villain called Zarp. You can watch the following video I created featuring a brief demo of how the Kinect controls work, along with 9 minutes of gameplay. It’s a montage of short clips so as not to spoil the puzzles:
Draw A Stickman: EPIC Kinect Demo & Gameplay Montage
EDIT: Please disregard the jerky scrolling in the video, as after updating my joypad’s software the scrolling is no longer jerky.
Draw A Stickman: EPIC is a hybrid Kinect 2 game, which means that both Kinect 2 and a joypad are used to play by holding the joypad in one hand while using Kinect 2 with the other. During gameplay the joypad is used to move Stickman around, pick up and use drawn objects, interact with certain objects in the environment, select pencils and cancel drawing. Whereas Kinect 2 is used to draw objects and effects. While in drawing mode you can’t move Stickman around, but enemies and the environment don’t stop, which adds challenge and strategy.
To draw you throw an L shape with your finger and thumb to activate drawing mode, aim the cursor by keeping your finger and thumb in an L shape while moving your hand, then start drawing by pinching your finger and thumb together as if you’re holding a pencil and move your hand around subtly to draw. You can draw more than one object by opening your finger and thumb back into an L shape again between each drawing and when you have finished drawing you fully open your hand with your palm facing forward to activate your drawings. You can switch between pencils to draw different effects and objects by pressing up and down on the joypad’s D-pad. If you make a mistake while drawing you can push a shoulder button on the joypad (left or right, depending on which hand you’re holding the joypad in) to undo a drawing. If you’ve drawn a number of objects and/or effects you can press the shoulder button for each one to undo them from the last drawn back. If you want to cancel all the drawings in the current drawing session and return to controlling Stickman you can press the B button on the joypad.
You can watch me demonstrating Draw A Stickman: EPIC’s Kinect controls at the start of the video above. If you follow those instructions exactly the Kinect controls should work perfectly and you should be able to draw quite precisely. No doubt there will be many journalists (the usual suspects) who don’t bother reading those instructions, which are available in the game, and don’t play it correctly then complain that the controls don’t work properly. If by any chance you do have any issues with the actual drawing line appearing then you can just pull a trigger to draw instead of pinching your finger and thumb together. There is actually a joypad-only option, which can be activated by disabling Kinect in the pause menu,
but I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than helping you draw a more complex Stickman at the start as thumbstick drawing is really slow and clunky and will make the game a chore to play. EDIT: I just updated my joypad (software update via the Xbox One settings) and thought I would try it out on Draw A Stickman: EPIC to see if the thumbstick drawing was any different and found that it’s actually improved a lot. Using Kinect 2 is still better, but the thumbstick drawing isn’t that bad now.
Overall Draw A Stickman EPIC’s Kinect controls work very well, they respond perfectly every time for me and are very precise. They are quite laggy though, I measured the lag and it’s 330ms (a third of a second) while drawing and 1 second to activate the drawings, which is worse than most if not all Kinect 1 games. However it doesn’t really affect the gameplay and just feels a bit odd. The joypad obviously works fine, but I wish there were more controls like jumping, climbing etc., which I’ll explain more in the “Levels” section, along with more combat which I’ll explain more in the following “Pencils” section.
Draw A Stickman: EPIC has six pencils to draw with:
- FIRE: This pencil draws fire. You can use fire to burn certain objects and it can be drawn any way you like. If you touch the fire with your Stickman you take damage.
- CLOUD: This pencil can draw two different clouds. Rain clouds create rain which falls directly below them and are drawn by drawing a cloud shape or just drawing an ellipse as it’s quicker. Lightning clouds create lightning bolts which strike directly below them and are drawn by filling in a cloud with scribbles or just scribbling a dense cloud as it’s quicker. If your Stickman gets struck by lightning you take damage.
- AXE: This pencil draws axes. The axe is used to cut certain objects and is drawn by drawing an axe shape, but it doesn’t have to be a very precise shape so you can draw it quickly. You can draw an axe directly on Stickman’s hand, or on its body if the Stickman you drew is a character that doesn’t have hands, or draw it on the ground and have Stickman pick it up by pressing the A button on the joypad. Each axe you draw can only be used 3 times.
- KEY: This pencil draws keys. The key is used to unlock or use certain objects and is drawn by drawing a key shape, but it doesn’t have to be a very precise shape so you can draw it quickly. Like the axe, you can draw a key directly on Stickman’s hand or on its body if the Stickman you drew is a character that doesn’t have hands, or draw it on the ground and have Stickman pick it up by pressing the A button on the joypad. Also like the axe, each key you draw can only be used 3 times.
- ARMOUR: This pencil draws armour. The armour protects you from a certain number of hits and is drawn by drawing any shape you like around Stickman’s body. You have to solve a puzzle in order to find and collect the Armour pencil.
- SNOWFLAKE: This pencil draws snow clouds. Snow clouds create snow which falls directly below them which can freeze enemies. These are drawn the same as rain clouds. The Snowflake pencil is only available in the Penguin Prison Break bonus level.
Draw A Stickman: EPIC’s pencils are used in various ways to overcome obstacles and solve puzzles to make your way through the levels. You don’t actually get to use all of the pencils in all of the levels, most levels only give you access to two or three and the first level only lets your use the Fire pencil. (Unless you’re replaying the level after finding the Armour pencil, which can be used in all levels.)
I thought that there would be a few more pencils that would draw more things in the environment like Max’s Magic Marker in Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood. (Which was originally incorrectly announced as a Kinect game by Microsoft, but unfortunately it’s joypad only.) I also thought that there would be more combat along with weapon pencils to use in combat. As it is the only pencils that can be used for combat are Fire, Cloud for lightning clouds and Snowflake for snow clouds to freeze enemies. Strangely enough you can’t attack enemies with the axe though. I think it would have been cool if you could have used the axe for combat by either pressing buttons on the joypad to attack like most games or perhaps having 1:1 (like the drawing, not necessarily full-body-tracking) or gesture combat using Kinect 2. There could have been other melee weapons too like a sword. Maybe these sort of things will happen in any future Draw A Stickman games.
Draw A Stickman: EPIC actually starts with you drawing your Stickman and drawing and naming your stickfriend, who then gets captured by the villain Zarp. As I said earlier, if you want to draw more than just basic characters you’ll have to draw using both Kinect 2 and the joypad’s thumbstick by swapping between the two via enabling and disabling Kinect 2 by pressing the menu button and selecting Enable or Disable Kinect. Although Kinect 2 is very accurate, trying to draw small precise details in mid-air is still incredibly difficult if not impossible. Unfortunately it’s unlikely you’ll be able to draw a masterpiece even using the joypad’s thumbstick as that’s very clunky and difficult to draw with, plus as I mentioned earlier you can only draw a certain amount, although there will be a patch sometime after launch that will raise that limit a bit. You also start off with only a couple of colours, which are selected using the joypad’s D-pad, but you can solve puzzles to collect more colours throughout the game.
The main problem with drawing your Stickman and stickfriend is that you can’t save them or edit them after you’ve drawn them, so if you want to redraw your Stickman you lose your previous Stickman, plus if you want to redraw your stickfriend you have to replay the intro (don’t worry, it doesn’t cause the game to reset) which also requires you to redraw your Stickman. So if you want to redraw both then make sure you just replay the intro and don’t redraw your Stickman first otherwise you’ll have to do it again. Unfortunately I found this out too late after redrawing my Stickman as R2-D2, which is why my stickfriend is just a basic stickman with the default name Bob, rather than C-3PO. Hopefully Hitcents will add a feature to save multiple Stickmen and stickfriends as well as edit them, along with maybe even the ability to share them on Xbox Live, either in an update or any possible sequels as I think it would be a very welcome feature.
Despite being called Draw A Stickman: EPIC the game unfortunately isn’t very epic as it only has 13 very short levels and that includes the Penguin Prison Break bonus level. I’m not sure exactly when or how the bonus level appears, I noticed it about halfway through the game, so maybe it appears when you complete half the levels. There also may or may not be a secret level, I can neither confirm nor deny it as if there was and I told you then it wouldn’t be a secret, would it? The length of the game depends on how long it takes you to solve and perform the actions to complete the puzzles, along with how many times you die which causes you to restart the level, but it should take you between 2 and 3 hours. It took me around 4 days, playing between 30 minutes and 1 hour a day, to complete it last week. Then I spent this week playing through it again to create the video for the article. You may have to play it again to collect everything, although I actually managed to collect everything the first time around. (At least I think I’ve collected everything.) I haven’t got all the achievements yet though.
There are multiple exits in most of the levels and each exit unlocks a different levels, but I don’t think you actually have to unlock all the levels to make your way through to the end of the game and if so you could in fact get to the end in about an hour. But then you would be missing out on half the game, so what would be the point in doing that?
There are multiple enemy types in Draw A Stickman: EPIC along with a few other NPCs, mostly bunnies. I won’t explain what the different enemies are or what they do to minimise spoilers, although then again I think you see most if not all of them in my video. Like I said before, there’s not actually a lot of combat and most of the time you’re either avoiding enemies or using them to solve puzzles.
There are collectibles throughout Draw A Stickman: EPIC that require puzzle solving to collect and sometimes even to discover. The collectibles are pages which build up the backstory of Zarp and are easy to find since they’re just lying around the levels throughout the game. Colours for you Stickman creator’s palette, which appear as coloured balls held by NPCs and I think there’s one colour per level to collect, although I seem to be missing a few colours from my palette despite collecting a colour in each level. Lads, which look just like the NPCs holding the coloured balls, but they’re not holding balls. Jigsaw pieces, which build up a jigsaw which I won’t spoil and you can find out about yourself if you collect all the pieces. Plus there’s the Armour pencil, which I mentioned earlier.
Since Draw A Stickman: EPIC is described as an adventure I expected a proper storyline throughout each level and either cutscenes or story scenes during gameplay. Unfortunately beyond the incredibly basic “your stickfriend has been kidnapped by Zarp and you have to rescue them” story at the start and end, plus a very brief gameplay story scene during Armakillo Pass where you find your stickfriend but Zarp runs off with them again, the only storyline during the levels is in the pages you find which have small black and white drawings and text telling Zarp’s simple backstory. Hopefully any future games will have a slightly more “epic” story that progresses throughout the game.
I would also have liked and in fact expected not only bigger levels but more environment to interact with using more joypad or Kinect controls. For example I expected a jump button and actions like climbing (either via joypad or Kinect 2) for at least some platforming and more exploration.
Despite Draw A Stickman: EPIC not being very long and not having much of a story it only costs $7.99 (UK & EU prices TBA, but will be equivalent prices) with a 30% discount for Xbox Live Gold members for a limited time which makes it even cheaper, so I do think it’s worth the price to be fair.
Draw A Stickman: EPIC’s graphics are all simple child-like drawings, including your own drawings of course, which is fine since that’s the style of the game, it’s not supposed to look like Quantum Break.
However something I wasn’t expecting was the jerky scrolling, which is worse on a few levels than others, since the mobile versions runs perfectly smoothly and this is the comparatively super powerful Xbox One! Hopefully this will get patched at some point, although fortunately it doesn’t actually affect the gameplay at all. EDIT: After updating my joypad’s software the scrolling was no longer jerky.
The music is quite nostalgic, some of it very reminiscent of some Mega Drive (AKA Genesis in the USA) games’ music, although they aren’t actually 16bit chiptunes like some indie games so they’re higher quality. Unfortunately there are only a handful of tracks so each level doesn’t have its own unique tune, instead each of the tunes is shared by multiple levels. The sound effects are just functional, I can’t really think of anything to say about them.
Although I wrote a lot of criticism above, like the length and wanting even more content, Draw A Stickman: EPIC is actually a good game and I enjoyed the puzzle solving and effortless Kinect controls. People will no doubt say that it’s more suited to mobiles and it’s hard to disagree, but I’d say the Xbox One version makes it a bigger experience. I don’t just mean that obviously it’s being displayed on a bigger screen, what I mean is that because even the biggest tablet is still a small area that you can perform all drawings and actions quicker on, including navigation as you can either point & click where you want Stickman to go or drag them around by dragging your finger around the touchscreen in the mobile version, the whole game must feel smaller and can probably be completed a lot quicker on mobiles. So the game no doubt just feels like a bigger experience using Kinect 2 and a joypad on Xbox One. Obviously you draw an even better Stickman on mobiles though, due to touchscreens being even more precise and easier to use than Kinect 2 or a thumbstick, along with barely any lag.
Hopefully the hybrid Kinect controls inspire other developers since they could be used for totally different games, for example an FPS where you hold the joypad in one hand to move the character with the thumbstick and firing with the trigger, while aiming your weapon and interacting with objects and the environment with the other hand via Kinect 2.
I can definitely recommend Draw A Stickman: EPIC as, for Kinect 2 at least, it’s quite a unique game and is worth the asking price for a few hours play. Plus it has a lot of potential as a franchise so hopefully future games will implement at least some of my improvement suggestions if this game is popular enough. So I think Draw A Stickman: EPIC is worth 7 out of 10. (For the Kinect 2 version, if you haven’t got Kinect 2 then it might be worth a slightly lower score
as I don’t think I can recommend the joypad-only mode as it’s just too slow and clunky to draw using the thumbstick. EDIT: As mentioned earlier I updated my joypad’s software and now the thumbstick drawing isn’t bad, although I still think using Kinect 2 is better.)
Draw A Stickman: EPIC will be available to download for Xbox One tomorrow, September 11th, via the ID@Xbox self-publishing programme.
Was this review helpful? Are you planning to buy Draw A Stickman: EPIC? Let us know in the comments below or in our Kinect 2 Games Forum. If you do buy the game you can also write your own review in our Kinect 2 Game Reviews Forum.
(Please ingore the message below. Draw A Stickman: EPIC is available on Xbox One NOT Xbox 360 and I received a review code from Hitcents, it’s not a retail copy, I just don’t know how to change the message.)
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Draw A Stickman: EPIC
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