Sketch Tales was developed by 8D Studio and released on Sep 28, 2015. It’s currently being sold on the Steam Marketplace for $9.99.
“Sketch Tales is D.R.A.W.I.N.G. Sandbox – or Doodling Roleplay Action With Imaginative Nonlinear Gameplay”
Sketch Tales is a game about exploration, combat, creating, and finding loot! What you do depends on what you decide to do. Although there are a few small hints pointing towards a destination, the player can explore almost anywhere. There isn’t a mountain you can’t climb or a building you can’t enter. The choice is yours. There are hidden “loot spots” across two maps that can be found that contain treasure chests and cozy fires. Plenty of NPCs (neutral and hostile) await the player’s arrival as well.
A run-of-the-mill action/adventure game was not what the developers at 8D studio intended on creating. The title of Sketch Tales has more than one meaning. Yes, the entire game looks like one, semi-talented 7th grader’s history class doodles; however, “Sketch” also refers to the player’s ability to have an interaction with the very fibers of this games existence. The looks of every creature, weapon, and playable character can be modified by the player through an in-game MS Paint-like menu. The player can color, shape, flip, or even completely redraw anything in the game. This great installment to Sketch Tales leads to an ultimate trail of possibilities. Imagination IS your weapon.
In addition to the ability to draw, the player can also choose to record his/her own sound effects and voices through another in-game option to further their involvement.
8D Studio wanted the player to be able to enjoy creating just as much as they enjoy exploring. The addition of the scrolls, or spells, that can be found scattered throughout the world are used to spawn NPCs, weapons, objects, and even build buildings. Can’t reach a faraway chest? Build a staircase and climb your way to it. This function of this game allows the player to modify every single aspect of this game, aside from the unmovable landscape. (There are rumors talking about future landscape movement.
Sketch Tales gives a sort of misleading plot at the beginning when the player launches the game. The gameplay shown in the cinematic is not really achievable by the player. This story claims that the color has been stolen from the sketch world, but does not suggest how or why. When the player then starts only ONE of the two campaign story options, Sketchmen Party, it gives another cinematic discussing a party in which all of the “sketch creatures” were gathered in a castle and were celebrating (something). The party guests were anxiously awaiting a dessert, but before it could be served it was “poisoned” by the mysterious hooded guest “Guster”. Everyone ate of the dessert and continued partying, with the exception of one guest (you). When this guest finally received some cake after begging his peers for some, he ate it. Shortly after, the little fellah’ was kicked out of the castle in the harsh snowy biome for some reason that was not explained very well.
During gameplay of the Sketchmen Party map, some neutral NPCs will give dialogue telling bits of lore. Two ghosts on this map claim that there is a “Warlock’s tower” at the end of the map and should be approached with caution. One ghost even states “Not long ago, this was a nice Sketchmen town. Nice folk they were. Before Warlocks killed them all and took over.”
This bit of story line only exists in one of the two story mode options. The other one just cuts to gameplay. The storyline given doesn’t make much sense, nor does it continue to be supported throughout the gameplay. It’s quite incomplete and irrelevant at its current stage.
Art style and animation
There is a mash-up of dimensions in Sketch Tales. Like an 8-bit game, for example, most of what you see in this game is two-dimensional; however, the landscape is not. All of the characters, weapons, items, and foliage are 2D; the landscape (including large boulders, all of the architecture, and the natural landscape) is 3D. Combining these two dimensional boundaries sounds nearly impossible, but the developers of this game do it and do it well.
As far as the theme of the art goes the artists over at 8D Studio went for a fantastical world filled with imaginary creatures ranging all the way from murderous, shiv-wielding vegetables to hulking alligator-men. There is no end to the imagination behind the theme of this game.
The graphics seem to be a saving grace with this game. ‘Unique’ is an understatement. The art style of this game is best described with its title, sketch. The majority of the Sketch Tales’ aesthetic looks like a jumble of amateur drawings scribbled on notebook paper. This simplistic theme is very appealing. The characters, weapons, items, and setting all seem to share the same theme and they blend together well. As far as the animations go, the characters move crudely, however it matches the theme of their appearance. It’s as if they all move with the animation of around 8 different slides.
The soundtrack of Sketch Tales is wonderful. There is a limited set of six songs (found here) that the game spins through at various times and events (during combat, idle, etc.). Every one of these six songs fits the gameplay well and does its job as being entertaining background noise, but also not replaying to the point of irritably over-staying its welcome. The feeling behind this soundtrack is that of exploration. The instrumental music translates emotions of hope, fear, excitement, and pride.
To summarize it really is an absolutely brilliant soundtrack and the developers shouldn’t change much about it (Except add more songs!).
- Unbalanced building
- Grammar errors
- Repeated and missing descriptions
- Recording Issues
This game is in an early access stage. That being said, there are going to be a few bugs. Fortunately, this game only has a few worth mentioning. Firstly, any slanted wall (cliff side, rock, etc.) can be climbed by simply spamming the Space Bar, or the jump button. This isn’t a game-breaking issue but it definitely deters players from choosing to walk around through monsters to get somewhere legitimately, when there’s an option to just climb any surrounding cliff side. Straight, architectural walls cannot be climbed this way.
Secondly (not sure this is considered a bug, but is fair to mention nevertheless), if the player can create any piece of architecture out of thin air after they’ve acquired the right spell, their chance of survival dramatically increase. They can break their way into any dungeon, or climb any wall. Building does require a currency of energy (the player’s energy limit can be raised by finding “artefacts” (spelling?) across the world and consuming them), however, it’s simply not difficult enough to build and this leads to the possibility of an imbalance in difficulty.
There are a few minor spelling errors. This was most likely caused by the developing team stemming from Russia and making a few mistakes during the translation of the game. It’s an understandable problem and an easy fix. Along with the spelling, most of the in-game descriptions of items are repeated and there isn’t much variation or depth. This is the same for spells and NPCs as well.
Finally, sometimes when sounds are recorded for characters or weapons, the sounds just don’t work.
A couple things that I, personally, would like to see in later versions of Sketch Tales are as follows:
- A revamped editing menu for drawing characters and items. Most importantly, add a color palette and a zoom tool!!!
- Maybe introduce crafting or some sort of function that allows players to have real sense of survival, such as cooking food over their fires or upgrading and improving their items. This would just give players another reason to want to stop and build a permanent structure they could consider as a base or home.
This game has so much potential. Sketch Tales is an explosion of creativity and truly represents new ideas being built upon old ones. There is a lot of value in this game. I believe the current Steam price of $9.99 is very fitting for it. Once it is polished up and more content is added, it could easily be resold at $19.99.
Art Style & Animation – 7.5/10
Music – 7.5/10
Gameplay – 6/10
Bugs & Game Mechanic Issues – 6/10