The Wii U’s GamePad presents budding artists with the perfect canvas for creative output. There are many artistry games out there to prove this point, including Hullbreach¬†Studio’s own SDK Paint.

This latest entry centers squarely on the creation of assets for a retro-style game – think classic RPGs along the lines of the original Final Fantasy. SDK Spriter invites you to create your own characters and maps before testing them out in a very basic interactive level.

The game is split very neatly on the title screen into five main categories: sprites, tiles, maps, levels and badges.

Creating sprites is a very easy place to start and I honestly had a lot of fun with this part. The drawing area takes up about half the screen, with the tools section on the right. You create your character in the first of eight frames, then copy and paste it into the next square and make some minor changes. When the eight frames are strung together, it gives the impression of animation – so when you test a level, your newly created character looks like it’s actually walking. It’s hugely entertaining to see your character walk on a map like it was embarking on an epic quest.

A sample of my varied sprite creations

A sample of my varied sprite creations

There is some time involved in making this happen – you’ll have to fiddle with 24 frames in total (since there are 8 for each direction up, down, left and right). The tools section is decent, with a good color picker, the ability to undo up to 99 steps, and a good way of showing the previous frame in the current frame. It does lack a few obvious tools though – like a simple paint bucket. A tutorial would have been a helpful inclusion, too. And this becomes more apparent with other categories.

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Sprite creation is my favorite part

I found the tile creation much less exciting, and although the toolset is the same as that used for sprites, I really wasn’t sure how to create a tile or at what size. The maps category is when things get thoroughly confusing, as the toolset is completely different and I was quite lost. After some reading online, I found that you can do quite a lot in here including defining boundaries and using warp points, but I think the complexity of the setup will put players off initially. Levels is where you put everything together in order to test your creations, and it works well – when you finally understand it! Another tutorial would not go astray here.

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Test your sprites by walking around levels

The experience does have some positive elements though. For example, there are plenty of slots available to save your work. The GamePad’s touch screen is used very effectively, but there are also button shortcuts for most touch inputs. There’s even some form of sharing your creations with the world.

I love the idea of sharing artwork, and thankfully this can be easily done via Miiverse or the SDKspriter.com website. Unfortunately Hullbreach Studio has missed the mark somewhat. The export is simply a PNG file of all 24 frames of your sprite – why not also show the animation? And the SDKspriter website leaves a lot to desire, it’s very simple in design and not intuitive to navigate. You’ll also have to create an account in order to vote or comment, another cumbersome process – check your spam filter for the registration email, which then links you to the SDKpaint site, not the Spriter one. The one redeeming feature of sharing online seems to be missing – apparently you can download and play someone else’s creation. This is a great idea, but I couldn’t see where to do this. Hopefully it will be part of a future update.

Seeing my characters come to life was a real thrill, but this title lacked the intuitive tools and functionality to make it appealing to a wide audience. For the price, it’s difficult to recommend to anyone who isn’t an RPG enthusiast with a creative streak and a lot of time and patience on their hands. Having said that, it does have real potential and I’d absolutely love to see the concept given the chance to be polished and expanded. More tutorials and more functionality within the sandpit levels would go a very long way.