E3 2011 – Hands-on Picture Lives!

Picture Lives
I’m getting more than a little tired of seeing games where you run around and shoot things. Unfortunately, E3 is packed to the gills with ‘em. But thank the maker, because there are at least a handful of games for the few attendees like myself who would rather explore colorful worlds than fill enemies with bullets.

One such title, Picture Lives!, is tucked away in Nintendo’s booth on a lone 3DS unit. The game is being overlooked by everyone… well, everyone except your pal Mister Raroo!

When I walked up to have a peek, the lady at the demo station seemed shocked that I wanted to play it. And I’m glad I did, because it is quite a quirky, charming little game!

I have never heard of the game’s developer, Asobism Co., Ltd. In fact, I thought Picture Lives! was perhaps developed by Chibi-Robo/ArtStyle developer Skip, since they know a few things about making wacky games. But I will be keeping an eye on Asobism in the future, because Picture Lives! seems right up my alley.

When the demo begins, you get to build a character using a variety of available shapes and parts. I made a spider-looking creature with three eyes and six legs. You have a lot of options available for customization, such as colors, size, and thickness of limbs, number of eyes, and so on.

The Nintendo representative told me that as you play through the game, you’ll unlock more options too. The game will also support StreetPass, so you can swap your creations with other players by the magic of wireless data transfer.

Once your character has been designed, you can choose what type of voice to give it (old lady, child, etc.) and then name it. I chose to give mine the moniker “Buggy.”

The game itself is a total trip. In fact, I don’t think I even grasp exactly what I played.

You control your character with the stylus. Tapping and holding anywhere on the screen makes the creature move in that direction, either by walking or swimming. There is also a circle icon in the middle of the touchscreen that sort of reacts like an analog pad. You can pull this virtual pad in any direction to stretch out your critter, and letting go sends it jumping in the opposite direction. On the whole, control is springy and loose, but it only took me a minute to get used to it.

After “Buggy” had been assembled, he was dropped into a 2D world that is somewhat reminiscent of what you would find in a Mario game. In fact, there were coins to collect and even hidden item blocks to smash. Green grass, blue skies, multicolored flowers, and leafy trees are the order of the day in Picture Lives! environments. The 3D layers are subtle, but add some nice depth to the world.

In terms of what you actually do in the game, there are definitely some exploratory elements in place. I had the freedom to move “Buggy” around the stage as I pleased, and a few goofy things happened almost immediately. He ate fruit then laid an egg. He spoke to a sheep who asked him to find a specific type of striped egg. He knocked on a house door and a coin came out of it.

Just really weird stuff. And I like that!

It’s pretty tough to tell at this point just what Picture Lives! is actually going to be. On the surface, it seems like a platformer where you take on quests, such as the aforementioned striped egg hunt. Yet it doesn’t seem to be quite that simple.

Even though I played through the demo a couple of times, I’m still scratching my head as to just what I was supposed to be doing. I think that’s a good thing though, making Picture Lives! one of the most curious games I’ve come across during my time at E3.

The fact that it stood out so much from the pack says quite a bit, in my opinion, and makes me confident that this is one to keep an eye (or three!) on.

*Picture Lives! is listed as a downloadable application set to be released through the Nintendo eShop.

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