Terrible Game Peripherals: The uDraw

In Failed Video Game Peripherals by John Tebbutt

It’s looking a little sketchy
It’s time once again to delve into the world of hilariously pointless video game peripherals. We’ve already seen the Wonderbook, a failed peripheral that requires a second failed peripheral (the Playstation Move) to function. Does it get any better/worse than that? Let’s find out. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…the uDraw!
This device started out as a playful addition to the Nintendo Wii, which makes total sense, because Wii owners are accustomed to buying goofy-looking peripherals that provide two or three afternoons of “hey, look what I’m doing!” fun before getting tossed into a closet and forgotten. All was going well until they decided to make uDraw controllers for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. You know; proper game consoles.
How did that go?
Brace yourself. They wound up sitting on 1.4 million unsold units.
Okay, that number is kind of hard to process at first, so give it a minute. A previously-successful games company put their cool new drawing-tablet thingie on the market, and 1,400,000 of them just sat there on store shelves, gathering dust and disdain. We tend to toss around the term “epic fail” a lot, but here was a failure that was genuinely Epic. How many factories and workers were employed to make 1.4 million pieces of sophisticated electronics that nobody wanted? The mind boggles.
THQ Inc. was an incredibly successful game manufacturer, and this hunk of plastic bankrupted them. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a piece of video game history akin to the failure of E.T. The Extraterrstrial for the Atari 2600. I had to find one of these controllers.
Fortunately (?) the uDraw can still be found in stores, at clearance prices. (Don’t pay more than ten bucks for this turkey.) Plus, they only made three games for the damn thing, so it doesn’t take long to experience everything the uDraw has to offer. Let’s give it a try, shall we?
The uDraw tablet is a sleek black slate, attached to a pen-like device on a cable. You use the “pen” to scribble on the “tablet”, and your drawing appears on your TV. It’s actually kind of cool. Included in the box is the game “uDraw Studio Instant Artist”, and it’s basically a tool for drawing and painting pictures. You know, like a piece of paper! Only harder to use! And with no way to print out your work! The stylus looks like it should be easy to handle, but somehow winds up being less intuitive than a mouse. This software will negate any artistic ability you have. I used the tutorial to carefully draw a terrible picture of an apple that I will never, ever show to another human being.
Next up is “uDraw Marvel Superhero Squad Comic Combat”. This game gives the player control of adorable little Muppet Babies-versions of superheroes like Iron Man and The Hulk, and it looks and sounds delightful. But I hate trying to control the little guys by swiping a virtual pencil on a tray. C’mon, Thor! I’m trying to make you shoot lightning at that robot! Stop jogging into the wall![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XoRGgpF2qc] Finally, we get the game this device was built for: “Pictionary Ultimate Edition”! This actually sounds like a game you’d want a uDraw for. The question is; why not just use the free “Instant Artist” game to play Pictionary with, and save yourself some money? Well, the game does have a mode called “Pictionary Mania” where the game sabotages your drawing efforts at random. Seriously, it’ll turn the screen black, or rotate the canvas, or randomly switch out your pencil for a spray can or eraser while you’re trying to draw a monkey. I thought my monkey drawings were terrible enough on their own; little did I realize how hilarious they could be under duress. Plus, you need a minimum of 4 players, and it can‘t be played solo at all! Unbelievable.

JOHN TEBBUTT

First published in FFWD Weekly on September 4, 2014