Greg Lobanov’s 2018 title Wandersong may have been a nominee for the Independent Game Festival’s “Excellence In Narrative” category this year, but its presence at the 2019 Game Developers Conference was overshadowed by Lobanov’s alpha of Drawdog, a game that allows players to express themselves through paint and coloring.
Backed by a soundtrack by Lena Raine (whose work you may know from Celeste), as well as sound effects from Wandersong alum Em Halberstadt, Drawdog follows a cute, paintbrush-wielding canine in a world drained of color.
Lobanov considers this game to be a bit more “game-y” than Wandersong, but stressed that it retains the same expressiveness and playfulness of Wandersong’s singing. Just like in Wandersong, which gave the player an always-available “sing” button, Drawdog has an always-available paintbrush tool, which can be used to solve puzzles (like painting over mushrooms to make them pop up into a springy platform to cross gaps) or just for decoration.
The dreamy, expansive nature of the spaces in Drawdog are inspired by games like Link’s Awakening, as Lobanov explained to Polygon, while the mechanics to explore the spaces using tools gathered through previous explorations are classic metroidvania. Moving from screen to screen, Zelda-style, new and unexplored areas are stark and undecorated, a blank coloring book for the player’s paintbrush. Spaces previously visited by the player are dotted with splashes of color and patterns, remnants of your last time through the area.
The game is in an extremely early state (even the name is a working title), as Lobanov mentioned, and most if not all of the narrative and mechanics are subject to change before release. In its current very alpha state, playing Drawdog feels like a mix between a freeform coloring book and an inventive puzzler, dotted with occasional character dialogue from the land’s animal citizens reminiscent of Animal Crossing.
Even in its current state, the demo slice that was available in the IGF Pavilion showcased the strong character writing and charm that infused Wandersong before it. The painting mechanic is a little clunky to use with a mouse, as in any situation where precise drawing is necessary, but it’s balanced out by a wholehearted embrace of messiness. Drawdog isn’t a game where you need to color in the lines, just to enjoy the act of putting color in the world.
Drawdog has no expected release date or target platforms, but a formal release announcement is expected before the end of the year.