Sometimes, drawing with a time limit can be funny. Other times, it's pure frustration. Sketch Wars falls into the latter, giving the player a clumsy set of tools, a poor choice of words, and some awful presentation and sound just to round the whole unpleasant experience off. How does one even manage to mess up a game where all you do is draw pictures of specific items while the other players guess what you're creating? How do you take a game you can play with a piece of paper and create a worse version of it? Sketch Wars will show you how.
It's very difficult not to draw comparisons to the vastly superior (and only $2 more expensive at launch) Picto Party. For starters, the interface. It wasn't given much attention in Picto Party's review, because everything was elegantly controlled from the Wii U GamePad. No matter how many players were in the game the artist could control everything from the pad; if someone guessed correctly, you tapped a button on the side of the screen and assigned points to that player.
It was so simple that Picto Party's interface didn't seem to bear mentioning, but Sketch Wars shows how much worse you can make it. For starters, you need a Wii remote for every single person who wants to play, which requires a lot more hardware and also limits the game to four players (plus the artist). Secondly, instead of being able to guess any word that comes to mind, the players use those Wii remotes to click on a selection of multiple choice words that are already on-screen, dumbing down the gameplay.
You already have a pretty good idea of what the person is going to draw based on those choices. Sure, the words are varied, but it forcibly narrows your guesses down. Instead of giving the players a category to limit their guesses, they have six choices of what it HAS to be. The right answer is directly in front of them, making it a lot easier to guess at what someone is drawing. It sucks a lot of the challenge and fun out of the game to pretty much know what the drawing is, as guessing it is typically the point of the game.
Still, it would be very hard to play Sketch Wars without multiple choice, as it has awful word and category selection. Sure, it has easy-to-draw categories like animals and food, but it also has others like positive words, ways to say 'big', money, deserts (which is supposed to be desserts), music theory, and long E words. These categories should give you an idea of what you're going to draw and what players are going to guess, but in Sketch Wars, you really have no idea what's coming. What will even show up in 'music theory'?
The categories are absurd, but the words are worse. For instance, in one run it asked the player to draw Lee. Lee. The name. Sure, one could draw Bruce Lee, and it IS right there on the multiple choice, but Lee? Other words can be just as bad, asking players to draw crewel, interfacing, arpeggio, nonsense, and harmonic major. Often, the player will sit there for a minute just wondering how they're going to manage to draw such a weird word, wasting precious time thinking about it and laughing about how foolish it is to be asked to draw it. Most of the entertainment to be had in Sketch Wars comes from seeing the crazy words it wants you to draw.
Then again, you may not have many entertaining words or categories to look at. Sketch Wars gives you these words and categories at random, and seems to have a small selection as it has a nasty tendency to double up on things. Some of the multiple choices on the side of the screen will show up multiple times, as do categories. In one instance, three categories showed up twice in the list of eight choices the player has to choose from before a round, limiting their options significantly. It was worse with the multiple choice, as it narrowed the player's choices down quite a bit and made it even easier to guess the right word.
Eventually, it'll be time to draw, and you'll start right off by wondering why the stylus isn't making anything show up on-screen. That's because you have to select a colour from the bottom of the screen before you can draw, as it doesn't default to black. It's such a tiny issue, but it slows the player down and seems like a pointless thing to have to remember before you draw. Once you do have a colour chosen you also need to choose a line thickness, which comes with its own set of problems in that the line stutters on anything but the medium thickness. Instead of getting a line, you get disjointed dots for half of the thickness choices, making them useless for drawing.
Unless you're a regular Sketch Wars player, you won't know any of this going in. This means you'll waste most of the first round in a short game trying to figure out what's going wrong with your drawing. Picto Party was obvious to a beginner and started simply, but these problems with Sketch Wars make it a nuisance for a new player. It messes up lines or doesn't draw at all until you select a colour, creating issues that have to worked around before you can even begin, and you've likely already wasted time trying to figure out how to draw 'ratio' already.
Not only is the game clumsy, it's also unpleasant to look at. Every piece of art or text looks like it's been cribbed from clip art and effects for an ugly Powerpoint presentation. The category select screen has fuzzy images of bolts in the corner of each screen (which obscures the categories there). Upon winning, stock fireworks go off (which are blurry), and an obviously-stretched 'Player X' shows up to show who won. Static plays as background art for some of the screens; the art was all put together in a hurry, and with minimal effort or skill.
Winning and guessing correctly gives you in-game cash to unlock more categories to play with, adding in things like Christmas and Sports. These categories contain words that are just as weird and bad as the others, and again, it's hard not to look at Picto Party. Picto Party would let you add whatever words you wanted to the game, creating dictionaries and categories at-will. Here, you're at the mercy of the developer's poor choices, and once you've exhausted those it doesn't have much else for you.
There's not a lot to a game like Sketch Wars, but what is there has been done poorly. The art is awful, the controls are initially clumsy and half of them don't work properly, and the words you have to draw are absurd. Short of the entertainment you'll get from looking at its terrible drawing choices, there's nothing fun about Sketch Party.