Art Academy was a fascinating app that was released as two downloadable lessons for the Nintendo DSi via DSiWare, and later as one combined package as a DS cartridge. Now, a sequel has been released for the 3DS entitled Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone. But is it for everyone? And more importantly is it for you?
Make the jump for my full review!
Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone follows the same structure as the previous "game," by offering up educational lessons as well as a Free Paint mode where you can do your own thing and explore your creativity. This time, the lessons are broken down into three sections: Introductory Course, Advanced Course and Add-On Lessons. The Introductory Course starts you off easily enough, with instructor Vincent giving you the right colors of paint to work with and teaching you color theory and painting techniques. Then it introduces pencil drawing, and finally pastels, which are a new medium this time around. In the Advanced Course, you'll still be taken step-by-step through the stages of developing your piece, although you'll be on your own as far as mixing paints goes. Add-On Lessons cost extra money to download, and at $1.99 each, seem a little pricey. Also, there are additional mini-lessons you unlock as you go, and there is a library of extra source images that you can use to paint or draw from outside of the lessons.
The game really does help teach genuine techniques that you could easily apply to the real world, if you chose. But Art Academy also does a bang-up job of reproducing the feel and look of the media you're working with. It's really quite amazing to see. I posted one of my paintings to Facebook and my mother thought I was taking an actual painting class! I admit I felt kind of lost at first when the Advanced Course had me mixing my own paints, but the addition of a new tool that lets you hover a dot over the source image as you combine paints until the dot matches the color of your subject helps a lot. Of course, the grid is back, and you can zoom in on your canvas for more detailed work. They've also added lots more tools such as special erasers and blending tools. It's really kind of impressive.
While you'll be playing this on your 3DS, the art you're creating will only be in 2D. (Colors 3D is so far the only app that lets you create 3D artwork, although as I mentioned in my review, it doesn't teach you anything and feels more like Photoshop instead of real paint) The 3D is used on the top screen for your source image, and it's actually rather helpful to be able to draw or paint from an animated 3D photo. It's as close to drawing from life as you're likely to get. Although I found that when using your own 3DS photos as reference, the 3D doesn't work as well as when using the images that come with the game. Also, your gallery is now in 3D, and you can navigate around it in a first-person view and hang and view your artwork. I would've preferred some less ostentatious frames, but whatever...
Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone also lets you save your artwork on the SD card in the Photo app so you can share it via Facebook or Twitter or E-mail. Being that the 3DS can connect to the internet, I would've preferred a direct way to send the image to Facebook or Twitter without having to deal with the middleman of saving it to the SD card and copying it to my computer. You can, however, attach your art to Swapnotes, but that'll only share with your 3DS friends. Another new feature is the ability to create lessons of your own and send them to your 3DS friends via SpotPass, but I admit I haven't tried that part out yet. In fact, the whole StreetPass/SpotPass connectivity is not particularly intuitive.
I've included some of the pieces that I created with Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone in this review so you can see for yourself just how well it reproduces the look of the actual art materials. Paint looks and behaves just like paint, the pencils look incredibly real on rough paper, and the pastels blend beautifully. I've also included a piece I did in Free Paint using a 3DS photo I took on a hike as reference. Obviously I've still got a lot to learn, as the ones from the lessons look better than the one I did on my own, but I'm still proud of my art. And no matter what your skill level is, the game will walk you through techniques step by step so I imagine anyone can develop their artistic side and produce some stunning pieces.
One last thing: Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone is available as both a retail cartridge and as a download from the Nintendo eShop. Nintendo is doing this with pretty much all their Nintendo-published games now, but this was the first one where I felt that the downloadable version would be a better option. This way I can always have it on my 3DS for when inspiration strikes and I'm feeling artistic, and I don't have to worry about swapping cartridges around all the time. I did notice that load times on the downloadable version were a little long and slightly annoying, but when I installed a larger SD card that I made sure was a faster one, there was some improvement in load times. I'm not sure what they're like on the cartridge as I didn't play that version.
A copy of Art Academy: Lessons For Everyone was purchased from the Nintendo eShop for the purposes of this review. The Beginner Course was completed and the Advanced Course was begun while tinkering a little with Free Paint.