NEW YORK — Parents whose children have an interest in drawing might consider “Disney Art Academy” (Nintendo) a worthwhile purchase. This new video game for the Nintendo 3DS system is designed to help young people hone their sketching skills.
However, in addition to shelling out $30 to the folks at the Magic Kingdom, parents also would do well to make the far more modest investment in a pad and pencil. A small gaming screen, after all, will only take a future Rembrandt so far.
“Art Academy” basically consists of a digital tracing and coloring pad. The plot surrounding the art tutorials is perfunctory: You’re a new student at a Disney drawing school and you need to prove your chops to advance. Moving forward is easy, as long as you can trace a basic outline of Mickey Mouse’s head and color in Cinderella’s face.
Unsurprisingly, the game is free of objectionable content, and is therefore suitable for all ages.
Once the player has conquered the basic Mickey, he or she can move on to other, more complex Disney and Pixar characters. These familiar figures, over 80 in all, range from the Little Mermaid and Winnie-the-Pooh to James P. “Sulley” Sullivan from “Monsters, Inc.”
From reproducing franchise favorites, the gamer graduates to still more detailed compositions, using digital tools like a paint brush and a spray can to meet the latest challenges to his or her creativity. Eventually there’s the option of a blank screen for free-form drawing.
Players are not given the chance to move forward to any tutorial they wish, however. The game moves in sequence with no opportunity to jump to a future lesson.
On the upside, the art a gamer creates can be shared and printed. Final masterpieces can be posted to Nintendo’s “Miiverse” website, for example, or shown to friends through a local wireless connection.
Besides the limitations imposed by the dimensions of the screen, however, some other considerations make that pad and pencil — or better yet, that pile of scrap paper and box of crayons — implements that, primitive as they may be, can never be excelled.
Drawing, like swimming or praying, is something that’s best experienced in the real world using old-school techniques that are ever ancient yet ever new. Part of the joy of creating art — especially for kids — is the messiness of innumerable misfires and fresh starts. And the whole thing hardly counts if Mom doesn’t wind up shaking her head in despair over the crayon marks on your clothes.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is E — everyone.