Review: Beat Sketcher
Beat Sketcher is a very interesting release. I hesitate to use the word ‘game’ because much of the content offered in Beat Sketcher isn’t really what you’d expect in a traditional game. This isn’t a negative criticism by any means, as the title provides a creative outlet for both casual and hardcore artists alike. The variety of different drawing options rests Beat Sketcher somewhere in between MS Paint and Adobe Photoshop. What Beat Sketcher brings to the table that these programs can’t reproduce is a unique musical twist and precise PlayStation Move support. Let’s take a look at what this title has to offer.
The closest Beat Sketcher gets to being a game is in its single player Challenge Mode, something all of the trailers and the demo fail to showcase or even mention. It’s a shame, since the Challenge Mode is the title’s most drawing aspect. The way Challenge Mode works is you choose a picture, then have to follow the game as it draws the picture line by line. Each line is scored – from bad to cool – according to how accurate you are in drawing to the beat of the song. It’s rather difficult to explain, so Chris and I uploaded videos of us completing a couple of challenges, which can be found in our preview. Each picture features a different catchy electronica/pop song that accompanies it. The level of complexity and, thus, difficulty increases as you sketch your way through all 12 of these challenges. When you clear all 12 pictures, a mirror mode unlocks that flips the pictures horizontally. This is where I spent most of my time playing Beat Sketcher. It’s a stretch to make comparisons to other games, but the Challenge Mode reminded me somewhat of Gitaroo Man, a PS2 rhythm game that perhaps doesn’t get as much praise as it should (gameplay video). The obvious difference here is that in Beat Sketcher, you’re using the PlayStation Move to trace lines rather than rotating the analogue stick and pressing buttons.
The Move implementation in Beat Sketcher is impressive. The entire game is controlled using the Move controller as your pointer, pen, brush, etc. The other major mode in the game is Create mode. This is the side of the game that Sony seems to be pushing more. Basically, you can open either a blank canvas, a preloaded image, or an image on your HDD, and start drawing. There are a variety of tools to be selected, ranging from pens and brushes to spraypaint and blenders. The rest is up to you. What’s cool about Beat Sketcher is that every stroke you draw has sounds that accompany it. You’re able to choose your sound pack at the beginning of the drawing, and you can go as far as selecting specific sounds for your strokes. The game keeps time in the upper-left corner and loops music according to what you’ve drawn in the past 8 beats or so. It sounds simple, but there’s an unexplainable delight in essentially drawing sound. The camera is constantly showing you what it’s seeing, meaning it’s possible to doodle around yourself and your friends. A slight drawback is that the PS Eye isn’t the greatest camera out there, so the streaming image quality isn’t great. The result of such doodling is often silly, but nonetheless fun, especially since there’s music accompanying it. I just wish there was some kind of custom music support. I think the game would be especially interesting if there was some way to manipulate your own music by drawing with the Move. What Beat Sketcher does utilize, however, is functional YouTube uploading.
In Challenge Mode, you have the option before starting of recording the entire challenge. At the end, you can either save the video to the game’s gallery or trash it. In Create Mode, you can begin recording at any time in ten minute intervals. At the end of ten minutes, you can save the recorded video to the game’s gallery. Screenshots are automatically taken during challenges. They, too, are saved to the gallery. From the gallery, you can view all of your screenshots and videos. The screenshots can be downloaded to your PS3’s HDD, and the coolest feature here is that you can upload videos directly to YouTube. It’s not the fastest process (my Critter Crunch video was a 350MB file that took about 15 minutes to upload), but it is extremely convenient. It’s nice to be able to record challenges and creations, but being able to record Match Mode sessions would be awesome.
Match Mode is playable (with one Move controller) by one to four people. The single player Match Mode features three game types: Paint Challenge, Line Challenge, and Rainbow Challenge. In Paint Challenge, you have 15 seconds to paint as much of the screen as possible. In Line Challenge, you have 15 seconds to draw the longest line without touching an added border or your own line. Rainbow Challenge sets an increasing number of colorless objects on the screen that you must dodge in order to connect the colored ones. All three of these challenges are surprisingly fun. Line Challenge would possibly be improved if there were different types of borders instead of just the one rectangle. As it stands, though ,it’s rather fun, especially with more people. In the two to 4 player modes, the Paint and Line challenges are supplemented by Theme Battle (a theme is provided and players take turns drawing the theme), Sketch in Battle (an object is provided and players take turns adding onto that object), One-Stroke Relay (players work together to draw a given theme one stroke at a time), and 4-Frame Relay (players take turns drawing a sketch, trying to complete a given story theme). To be honest, the Paint and Line challenges provided by far the most fun of all of the options. The others seem to be more suited for family play than for a bunch of 23-year-olds hanging out with a few drinks.
Beat Sketcher makes a creative statement: Using the PlayStation Eye and Move technologies, we’d like to provide players the ability to artistically express themselves. By and large, it succeeds in this task. The game’s Create Mode is adequate enough to allow for casual doodles and masterful sketches. Challenge Mode supplies the scoring feedback required by most players to engage with Beat Sketcher as a game. Its easy-to-use image saving and video uploading tools make sharing your creations a breeze, and the Match Mode is fun enough to provide hours of wand-waggling entertainment. At $9.99, you’re not getting a MS Paint application on your PS3. You’re getting a rhythm drawing game that provides you with the tools to make something special. I’m looking forward to seeing the impressive pieces that people create with Beat Sketcher.
For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- My Move is my brush, my TV is my canvas, and my possibilities are limitless
- Great for casual and hardcore artists alike
- Painting the screen is unbelievably fun
- Easy YouTube uploading
What I Dislike:
- No custom soundtracks
- Not all modes can be recorded/uploaded