Welcome to the artsy equivalent of Big Brain Academy.
While Art Academy: First Semester may appear to be nothing more than a painting application, there’s quite a bit more to it than meets the eye. Not only is it the first in a series of art-themed games, but it’s also a magnificent creation tool, much like another highly-acclaimed DSiWare title, Flipnote Studio.
First Semester may seem like a weird choice for release on the DSiWare Store seeing as Flipnote Studio is already available for free. Fear not: Art Academy goes far beyond reasonable expectations and brings plenty of neat features that are absent from Flipnote Studio.
One of the features that the game emphasizes are the lessons that teach you how to create a masterpiece. By engaging in the six different lessons found in the game, one can easily grasp the basics of art and then put their knowledge to work, painting their very own piece using the game’s free paint mode.
Besides these core lessons that teach players the basics, there are also some more bite-sized lessons in which players are given a photograph to paint without any guidance. While they are not as useful as the main lessons, they do prove to be a worthwhile distraction and a great challenge for seasoned veterans.
While the number of lessons may seem a little on the short side, the time you will spend at them is beyond what you might expect. Out of the six lessons featured in the game, all of them should take at least anywhere from ten to twenty minutes to complete, and that is only if you rush them. If you want to make your portrait the best it can possibly be, you might find yourself taking upwards of an hour to complete a single lesson.
The pacing of the lessons is also spot-on. The lessons are structured logically, and confusion should seldom appear. Your mentor, Vince, does a great job explaining the steps you need to do to complete a lesson, and even offers some advice and trivia to keep you engaged.
The educational aspect of the game is quite impressive – there is plenty of fun to be had, and the game does a fabulous job of keeping players captivated throughout the entire semester.
For those skeptical as to whether or not Art Academy is capable of delivering a realistic painting simulator, worry not – Art Academy goes far and beyond what most painting games have to offer. Each of the many tools found in the game are extremely responsive, thus resulting in some accurate use of the Nintendo DSi’s touch screen. Every one of the tools – from the pencil to the eraser – feels just the way it should. Not only that, but the game also picks up on your speed and pressure and accurately translates it to the screen.
While learning is a crucial part of Art Academy, those just wanting to express their emotions and feelings, will find that free paint is where the game really excels. Not only is it structured so that you can draw whatever you want, whenever you want, but it also allows you to import pictures from your Nintendo DSi and customize them to your liking. After you have gotten them to the point where you are satisfied, you can then save them and then view them with the rest of your Nintendo DSi photos.
Art Academy: First Semester offers much more than most painting games on the market. The amount of precision and content found in the game is truly exceptional. Everything from the controls to the lessons to the tools is extremely fine-tuned. The game has virtually limitless replayability thanks to the free paint mode, which is accessible right from the start of the game. All in all, this is an excellent piece of software.