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Beat Sketchers
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: noisycroak Co., Ltd.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Puzzle/ Rhythm

Graphics & Sound:
Beat Sketchers harnesses the power of the PlayStation Move and the PlayStation Eye to create an interactive drawing system which allows you to draw in the air and have your artistic creations show up on your television. Thanks to the PlayStation Eye, this can be done over the imagery of your room, with special effect filters, if desired. In Creation Mode, the graphics are, quite frankly, up to your own creation, but you get a nice range of artistic tools with which to play. In addition to the expected rectangles, circles, pens and brushes, there are also some "light brushes," which allow you to emulate a look that has become popular in several television advertisements as of late, such as the Sprint commercial in the link below.

The name "Beat Sketchers" indicates, right off the bat, that this game is all about sound ("beats" A.K.A. music) and graphics ("sketchers" A.K.A. artists). Based on this, you would expect a good deal of effort to be put into the music. Yeah, sorry. I was disappointed, too.

The music in the Challenge Mode (my least favorite mode) is not half bad. It's far from amazing, but given that the nature of the gameplay requires the music to be composed of a series of repeated phrases, the musician(s) did a good job of keeping the music themed and not overly annoying. In the Creation Mode, however, you start by choosing background music. My favorite is a very relaxing ocean sound effect loop. Some of the others are the epitome of generic music loops. Furthermore, the various random sound effects made when you draw can be interesting, but they completely ruin the soothing effect of the ocean waves background sounds. It might be marginally possible to make less annoying sounds that approximate music, but, while Beat Sketchers can qualify as an art editor, it is no music editor.


Gameplay:
There are different modes of play in Beat Sketchers - not all of them actually qualify as a "game." In fact, in my opinion, the most redeeming aspect of Beat Sketchers is the Creation Mode, where you can simply use the PlayStation Move and the PlayStation Eye to draw whatever you want over the live image of the room in which you're playing or, if your prefer, an image you've saved on your PS3 already. In this mode, you are basically using the Move with a drawing program, similar to, perhaps, Adobe's Photoshop or Gnu's Gimp, although with fewer features than either. In addition to the images that are drawn, dynamic sound samples that react to how you use the Move are generated, in a sort of impromptu music sequencer. However, the difficulty of intentionally stringing together sound effects into a meaningful composition makes these sound effects more of an annoyance than anything else, so, after a while, you're likely to turn the volume down and simply enjoy drawing in the air.

In addition to the Creation Mode, there is the Challenge Mode, where you are presented with a series of brush strokes and you'll have to replicate each one, in turn, as precisely as you can. Even your pacing is scored, so be prepared to start when cued and move your brush so that you keep your brush inside the target circle. This mode seemed to be more than a little frustrating, in my opinion.

The Match Modes were more fun. There is Line Challenge, where you have to try to draw the longest continuous line you can within the specified area and a given time limit. This mini-game feels a bit like Tron Cycles, as you can't leave the playing field or cross any existing lines as you're drawing or you lose. Paint Challenge has you attempting to shade in the entire screen within a time limit. This will wear you out, and I found it a bit mindless for my tastes. Another Match Mode, Rainbow Challenge, has you drawing a line between colored shapes in a field of white shapes. You have to draw continuously from one colored shape to the next and, while you can cross over your line as needed, your line can't come in contact with any of the white shapes or you lose. This game is a balance of speed and control and was my favorite of the Challenges in the Match Mode.


Difficulty:
Since you are painting on the entire screen, Beat Sketchers has you calibrate to find the "optimal" distance. Even at this distance (and my 6 foot arm span), I found that I had to move a bit to reach the edges of the screen. This mainly means that you won't be able to sit across the room on your couch and paint. Other than the requirement that you stand up and move around a bit, the Creation Mode is fairly easy. It's approachable enough for anyone to play around with the cool interactive nature of the system just for fun, but also provides enough technical control for skilled artists to make really nice works of digital art.

The modes that are actually scored games are more difficult and, quite frankly, frustrating. I was able to draw the various images, but did fail out on a couple of occasions. My friends who tried it found the drawings to be very difficult and frustrating, as well. In addition to the challenge of accurately tracing the example line on the screen, you have to start at the correct time, end at the correct time and move at the demonstrated pace. I found that I would get confused at times and would be watching the demonstration cursor thinking that I was controlling that, rather than the line that was wandering off course.

The Challenge Modes, such as the Line Challenge and the Rainbow Challenge are easier to play, in my opinion, but still aren't as entertaining as the Creation Mode, which has no scoring at all.


Game Mechanics:
The idea of using the PlayStation Move as a drawing system is an obvious fit, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were a wide variety of games featuring this dynamic in various types of gameplay. The unique gimmick in Beat Sketchers is the music aspect, which, in my opinion, leaves a lot to be desired. The result is a fairly fun interactive drawing system with a variety of mini-games that you'll probably play once or twice and then (maybe) show to friends when you first show them the game.

Beat Sketchers allows you to save off your created pictures, which is to be expected, and allows you to record ten minute videos of your creative process, which is a nice touch. These videos can then easily be uploaded to YouTube for sharing which, again, is a nice feature that really makes sense here.

If you're a budding artist and a "YouTuber," then Beat Sketchers might be worth checking out. At $10 USD, it's not a bad deal, if only for the freestyle drawing aspect of the Creation Mode - and if you happen to catch it on sale, it's a no-brainer.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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