capsule review

Draw Something for iPhone and iPad

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Draw Something by OMGPOP

Draw Something, a collaborative Pictionary-style game from OMGPop, is confusing. It’s not too confusing to play, mind you—though it doesn’t offer much in the way of instructions or tutorials before thrusting you into the action. Rather, the game is confusing because despite a whole host of flaws, it’s still impressively fun.

Ends in a Draw: Watching your friends struggle to draw their words, and knowing that they'll watch your guessing later, adds to Draw Something's charm.

Here’s the gist of the game: Draw Something presents you with three objects. You pick one and draw it. Later, your friend will see your drawing—including the entire creation process as you drew it, complete with any erasing—and try to guess what you drew. The guessing is made a bit simpler by virtue of the fact that Draw Something provides both the length of the word to guess and 12 letters to pick from. Then your pal draws a picture for you to keep the game going.

When it’s your turn again, you can watch your friend guess to see just how far into your masterpiece you needed to get before your artwork was identifiable as, say, Eminem.

The game is collaborative, not competitive. Should that strike you as odd, think of the alternative: People drawing unrecognizable objects to prevent their friends from scoring guessing points, or alternatively submitting only “LIVES” when the drawing is clearly “Elvis.” So rather than competing against your drawing partner, your only goal is to keep the game going; you guess my art, and I’ll guess yours.

As I alluded to earlier, however, there are problems. Sometimes, I get push notifications indicating that it’s my turn to guess, but Draw Something doesn’t show my turn in the app itself. Sometimes force-quitting the app from the multitasking bar and relaunching it again resolves that problem; sometimes only time and prayer make my turn appear.

Color Commentary: I needed to get more colors to draw Jaws, because one blue shade wasn't enough. But now I'm stuck with a pair of indistinguishable yellows.

The game offers no useful history; I can’t look back and see past drawings, or save favorite creations, or share them with the Internet at large. (I’ve taken to capturing screenshots of my favorite drawings.) And you can’t always appreciate your friends’ great drawings, either: Often, you’ll end up guessing the word early in the drawing process, but your friend will have added plenty of (frequently amusing) detail to the drawing. Draw Something flashes the finished picture very briefly after you guess correctly, but automatically advances to the next screen without letting you appreciate the drawing. That’s extra surprising given that, in other situations, the app makes you tap repeatedly—once to accept that you’re ready to start your turn, and again to start drawing or guessing.

Draw Something should also take a cue from Zyng’a With Friends series and integrate in-game chat. I was forced to lambaste a Macworld colleague for what I perceived as her poor drawing of a vault by scrawling my message in my next drawing, before erasing it to draw the object I was actually assigned.

You’ll also start to see the same words repeatedly in Draw Something. The game needs a dictionary upgrade; if someone draws “judge” for me one more time, I may weep. And my wife has drawn “painting” at least half a dozen times for various friends she plays the game with.

Judge, Jury, and Executioner: I got good (for me, at least) at drawing a judge, because Draw Something's offered it to me as an option at least half a dozen times.

But perhaps worst of all for a game focused on drawing is that the drawing interface itself is imprecise, with a couple frustrating limitations. There’s one small pen size that’s just barely beyond “too small,” and then three larger pens. Draw Something has room for a pen size between the smallest size and the next largest one. And drawing with the smallest pen needs work: The virtual ink just doesn’t show up right where you put your finger.

Your color options are limited when you first launch the app, though you exchange in-game coins for additional color packs in the game. You earn those coins whenever you or your friend successfully guess words. But buy two packs, and you may well end up with two identical yellows, and Draw Something offers no de-duping option.

All these faults aside, I still have fun playing Draw Something, and judging from how quickly my friends play their turns, I’m not alone. It’s fun watching good artists go above and beyond the artistic call of duty, and it’s equally fun watching lousy artists (like me) flail about trying to create a reasonable facsimile of a judge, flamingo, or Star Trek.

You can pick up a free, ad-laden version of Draw Something in the App Store, or buy the game outright for $1. OMGPop says that the $1 price is a promotional one, and that the real price is $2. The game requires iOS 4.0 or later and works with the iPhone 3G or later, third-generation or later iPod touches, and any iPad.

[Lex Friedman is a Macworld staff writer.]

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Draw Something by OMGPOP

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