Review: Art Academy: Second Semester (DSiWare)

Less of the same.

Two weeks ago, Nintendo released Art Academy: First Semester. We reviewed it and were happy to do so.

The title was impressively functional, easy to use and very much successful at fostering creativity. These are all good things. We were painting apples and red peppers like there was no tomorrow. The sun was shining. We were merry.

This week, Nintendo released Art Academy: Second Semester. And while everything positive that we had to say about the first release is still present and accounted for, our enjoyment and appreciation is severely tainted by the fact that we're being asked to drop another 800 points on it all over again with no additional features or functionality.

Considering nothing about the title's mechanics or limitations have changed since First Semester, it's strongly suggested that you read that review in addition to this one. The trouble isn't that Second Semester isn't worth buying; the trouble is that we already bought it and are asked to buy it again.

There are two main sections to this release, as before: Free Paint and Lessons. Free Paint, as you learned two weeks ago, is what will give Art Academy longevity beyond the few hours you'll spend learning about tools and techniques from built-in art instructor Vince. It's been plopped wholesale into Second Semester, without any alterations whatsoever.

Lessons here number a measly four...a notable step back from the six found in the previous installment, for the same price. Mini-lessons are also included but, again, they are not much value as they involve painting included pictures without guidance. If you want to paint pictures without guidance, you can import any picture you like and go bananas. Mini-lessons can't really be considered to be features, unless you consider the photo of somebody else with their dog that comes with a picture frame a "feature."

It's difficult to justify Second Semester as a separate release in itself. The only enduring feature is one that its target audience already owns if they downloaded First Semester. And if they didn't download First Semester, newcomers will find no instructions on how to use the tools.

This lack of any explanation of how the program works indicates that Nintendo, for some reason, really does expect people to download both releases. In that case, why include Free Paint here at all? Why not just charge 200 points for the new lessons? Why inflate the price by including major features that they assume we have already? Or why not offer a complete, single release for (a much more fair) 1000 points instead?

It's a real shame that Art Academy comes off as so greedy. This is an excellent idea with brilliant execution. (The programmers truly deserve their accolades, as we never cease to be impressed by how accurately the tools handle and react to what we do.) There's no excuse for this full-priced sprinkle of new lessons, and that casts an unfortunate dark shadow over this colorful release.

Conclusion

Downloading First Semester comes recommended by us at Nintendo Life; doubling the cost for a meager four lessons more does not. It may be a worthwhile purchase for those who skipped First Semester, but bear in mind that this release assumes you already know how to use the tools and interface, so...good luck with that.

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