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PictoImage

We’ve all done it. There’s just no escaping the frolicking fun around Christmas and birthday times. Gather the family together, reminisce about old times, grab a few drinks and eventually, begin the ever-embarrassing party games. Nobody wants to miss out on such bonding times, do they? There’s karaoke, maybe a quiz or two, and if you’re the perfect modern family, probably a handful of Wii games for good measure. These classics are fine, but to really get the laughter bellowing, why not try a round of charades? Yeah, I understand, it’s too embarrassing to even consider; I mean who wants to stand in front of their tiresome family and act as if they have lost control of their mind, let alone their voice. It comes as an ironic relief then, that PictoImage has arrived onto the DS, bringing the charade phenomenon into the contemporary era, albeit in particularly silent and mellow form.

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Most DS games can fall under two contrasting categories: either a title is infectiously addictive or can be thrown away with great haste. Strangely, it would be difficult to place PictoImage under either of these choices categorically, as the game has a rather strange appeal to it. Although it immediately stamps out being played religiously every single day, there is an odd appeal to this scarily charming title.

Just like the well respected Neves, there is definitely a place in the market for a game based around one popular formula such as charades. Easy to pick up and play, PictoImage finds itself as a short-fix title, as the majority who play this will see sense to do so on lonesome journeys, or in multiplayer.

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As soon as you load this pleasant offering up, you’ll immediately see the order of the day. It certainly is a fun, bouncy, playful product from the outset. Immediately players can chose their avatar out of a selection of animated letters; not exactly inspiring, but harmless nevertheless. For a title based on such a basic party game, there is a decent amount of content here. Players can jump straight into the single-player mode if they feel effortlessly confident, or they can learn the rules of the playground in the pampering tutorial. Drawing something remarkably straightforward can be difficult at times on the small lower screen, so the tutorial is the best place to regain that artistic flare you held back in secondary school. If, like myself, you never had that flare, the single-player is waiting with its overly enticing arms wide open.

“It certainly is a fun, bouncy, playful product from the outset”Once into the main mode, PictoImage becomes a relaxing and slightly lifeless title based around the premise of charades: guesswork. Players will witness drawings being made on the top screen, and then will have to type out their answers on the bottom screen. As a range of ages and abilities draws the images, some of them can be surprisingly awkward to get right. In particular, the pictures drawn by young children can be frustrating to try and guess. PictoImage states the age and sex of each individual artist; meaning you instantly know what to expect. Many of the older, well-crafted drawings are extremely easy to guess, as they look identical to their real-life counterparts. Unfortunately, not being able to guess what a five-year-old girl has drawn is a strange thing to accept, especially as it is sure to be a hugely basic, one-dimensional creation.

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Thankfully, PictoImage never holds back players, as you can pick and choose charades as you like. With over three hundred to choose from, there is always going to be a feeling of success in the air, as you are bound to recognise the most straightforward of images. It’s to the game’s credit that the challenge is there for everyone, according to their abilities in this particular area.

Away from the single-player, PictoImage offers challenges for two players across one DS. Players take it in turns to draw a named object, and then pass the handheld onto their friend once they are done. If your friend is lucky enough to own their own DS however, the multiplayer really begins to light up.

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In excellent fashion, PictoImage can be played on up to eight handheld consoles with one copy of the game. Although this isn’t a novelty anymore, the decision is one that is sure to lean heavily in the favour of publishers SEGA. As a single-player, it’s unlikely that this title would sell enough to oust the various Brain Training regimes from the throne of interactive gameplay on the console. However, with this multiplayer mode added alongside, there are sure to be many ready to pick up the challenge and take on their friends.

“In excellent fashion, PictoImage can be played on up to eight handheld consoles with one copy of the game”Ingeniously, players take it in turns to draw a selected image. Whatever the artist is doing on their DS, the rest of the players will see in real-time. This is hugely effective when a group of players are sitting around a table, frantically trying to type out their range of wonderfully weird and hilarious answers. The race to become the winner is a blast, and one that brings the classic formula to the modern world of multiplayer gaming with surprising ease. Throw in the chance to work in teams of threes and fours, and the game shows that competition is great fun, as you work together trying to out-think the other group. Variations of this vintage formula are available here, but none of them match up to the excitement of the classic multiplayer mode.

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“Although the single-player is adequate, it isn’t going to keep hardcore puzzle aficionados quiet for very long”Of course, not everyone has access to play a multiplayer version of this game. Although the single-player is adequate, it isn’t going to keep hardcore puzzle aficionados quiet for very long. Running alongside this main bulk of single-player gaming is the chance to create your own gallery, and various images for team play. This isn’t hugely inspiring, and will fail to get a glance from many, as it seems ideas to advance the formula were firmly halted here. It’s a shame that there isn’t something slightly original added on for the lone wolf, as the title could have been a near essential present puzzler.

With a decent array of modes and a charming exterior, you could do a lot worse for your money than PictoImage. The trend of many DS games now seem firmly routed in advancing ageing classics; something that many do not replicate as well as this accessible development. If you don’t have the ability of multi-player, this one may be worth a gamble depending on how much you enjoy the premise. If you do have the ability and eager friends however, I have four words for you: go try this now.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

Gentle persuasion

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