Drawn: Trail of Shadows
Drawn has returned. The third game in the series, Drawn: Trail of Shadows, dares to outdo its predecessors, Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn: Dark Flight, in what simply must be the most enchanting hidden object adventure hybrid game to date. The visuals have improved (if you can believe it!), the storytelling is even more intriguing, and the puzzles are as rich as before. Good hidden object games are hard to come by, so when you find a game this great, you'd best dive right in.
There was once a young boy who loved to paint. His drawings were so vivid, they transformed themselves into magical portals that led to other worlds. But one day, he created a door he never should have painted, and out came an evil wizard. The wizard took the boy with the intention of forcing him to paint evil into every corner of existence, removing the sun and stars from the sky itself. Just as he was being pulled into the painting, however, the boy realized he wasn't alone. This is where you, young Iris, enter the story.
Just like Drawn: Dark Flight, Trail of Shadows manages to fill out the story introduced in the previous games without alienating new players. So, if you've never played a Drawn game, you won't feel left out starting with number three. If you're already a Drawn fanatic (which, you really should be), Drawn 3 adds some nice pre-Iris backstory and keeps things moving forward nicely.
Gameplay falls firmly on the casual adventure side of things, keeping jarring lists of objects out of the picture in favor of organic inventory items and scattered clues. Each small section is composed of several screens, many of which have sparkling areas you can zoom in and interact with. To solve the puzzles and move on to the next area, you'll need to climb around and search everywhere for items. Sometimes they're well-hidden, sometimes they're in pieces, and other times, you'll have to jump through a few hoops in order to make them appear.
Drawn: Trail of Shadows features a number of great mini-games, all of which fit perfectly in the fairytale storybook setting, They aren't revolutionary in terms of content, but they're good diversions and always simple to complete. Besides, you can skip them after a few moments if you aren't in the mini-game sort of mood. And yes, before you get too curious, the wonderful pop-up book sections from before have returned!
Analysis: Drawn: Trail of Shadows is phenomenal. Adjectives don't do the game justice, as it's a marvelous thing to see in action. The visuals, as pretty and lush as before, have been upgraded to produce a shifting effect when you move your cursor. It looks as if you're actually standing in a forest meadow, as the foreground and background move independently. It sounds trivial, but when you see it in motion, you'll wonder how you'll ever play a standard hidden object game again.
The Drawn series has always aimed to do things a little differently than the rest. Adding itself to a crowded genre can be a frightening thing to do, but the series stands out thanks to some excellent artwork, storytelling, and puzzle design. Drawn also skips right over most pitfalls hidden object/adventure games fall victim to, showing remarkable polish that leads to a near perfect gaming experience. Trail of Shadows continues this tradition without feeling too much like its predecessors, removing any fear of copy/paste game design before you even start playing.
Don't be afraid of Drawn: Trail of Shadows because it's the third in a series. Newcomers can play it just as easily as veterans. And don't shrug your shoulders because of the genre label shared with all those other games. Drawn: Trail of Shadows is expertly-crafted to provide an adventure experience unrivaled in the casual gaming world, and it's got something every player can enjoy.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a soundtrack, achievements, concept art, wallpapers, behind the scenes information, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game. A standard edition will likely be available in a few weeks.