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Scribblenauts Review


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On 09/23/2009 at 01:16 AM by Neal Ronaghan

In Scribblenauts, Death beats God, God beats Cthulu, and Cthulu beats Death.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you can get past some awful controls, there's a lot of fun to be had.

A lot of the buzz said that Scribblenauts was something unlike anything anyone had seen before. I think I even heard rumors coming out of E3 that if you typed "Cure Cancer" into the game you would actually cure cancer. In the grand scheme of things, though, Scribblenauts isn't a perfect cancer-curing video game, but it still has one of the most innovative ideas I've ever seen in a video game.

For the uninformed, Scribblenauts is founded on the principle of "write anything, solve everything," which basically means that whatever you can think of can appear to help you solve the game's puzzles. Still, there are a few restrictions. You can't use copyrights or naughty language. So Mickey Mouse is out, and so is penis. Another drawback is that sometimes objects don't function the way you think they should. For example, you can't really use a fishing pole to fish.

The best part of the game is easily the title screen, where you can just write whatever you want and see how it all interacts. Finally, you can solve the age-old feud between ninjas and pirates, and you can also see what happens when a robot zombie meets an Amish person. It's an amazing sandbox and shows off what makes the game fun.

On the other hand, the controls are without a doubt the worst thing about Scribblenauts. You use the touch screen to control the main character, Maxwell, and also to manipulate objects. So you could want to move a dangerous object to a different area and accidentally send your rooster hat-wearing avatar to his certain doom. Also, Maxwell has a propensity to not stay in one place as I would often not be touching the screen at all and the little bastard would be hopping around. The controls simply offer no precision.

The structured part of the gameplay is in the 10 worlds that have 22 levels each. Those levels are split between action mode and puzzle mode. In action mode, players move around the environment and try to reach the Starite, the Scribblenauts Macguffin. In these levels, the Starite is always visible on screen and you have to figure out how to retrieve it. Conversely, the puzzle mode requires the player to perform a task to reveal the hidden Starite. The first puzzle level asks you to find an object that two of the following, a cop, a firefighter, a chef, and a doctor, can use with their hands.

After you complete a level once, you can go back and attempt it again, but this time you must come up with three solutions for the puzzle without using the same object twice. Its novel, but it can be easily exploited. For example, there is a level where you must give a farmer three animals, and I successfully used pig, hog, and swine, which all produce the same thing.

Along with over 200 included levels, the level editor allows players to create and share levels over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Overall, the sheer amount of puzzles is impressive, but a lot of the puzzles aren't clear. All you're given is an environment and a vague sentence-long description. Also, a lot of the objects' uses aren't that intuitive. Luckily you don't have to beat every level to go further in the game.

The unlock system is a little bit unconventional. Instead of just clearing levels to open up more worlds, you win Ollars, which you can use to buy new worlds, avatars, and songs. You earn Ollars by completing levels as you are scored on three different things: how many objects you use, style, and time. You also earn merits, which reward you for using certain types of items or completing a level under specific circumstances.

Scribblenauts is one of the most innovative ideas to come around in a long time. As a full-length game, it falls short, but the amount of different things you can do in this game is vast. For that alone, it is worth experiencing. However, once that awesome glow dims, the entire experience becomes a little less awesome.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Emperor Pilaf

10/13/2009 at 12:14 PM

Looks too much like Drawn to Life.

Nick DiMola Director

05/26/2010 at 07:24 AM

I was extremely underwhelmed by this game. With the second one due out this year, it'll be interesting to see if they fix my many complaints.

The controls would be the most important, with some more robust objects being second to that.

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