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Game Review: Scribblenauts
Game of the Year
I've been on a bit of a DS kick lately, which isn't old enough to be retro, or new enough to be current. It's in a Goldilocks zone, where game shops still stock it's software, and for significantly lower prices than current gen console software. So for frugal gamers, it's an excellent choice in a console. It has a huge library of incredibly diverse games, including some groundbreaking gameplay techniques that are unique to the console because of the gamepad and touchscreen functionality.
Developed in 2009 by 5th Cell, the people behind Drawn to Life, the public knew that Scribblenauts would be a creative gem similar to their previous game. When it premiered at E3 it took away Best in Show- and then was promptly more or less ignored by the gaming media. It's incredibly rare for a handheld title to get Best in Show at E3 unless it stars Link and has the word Zelda somewhere in the title. So this game should never be seen as a hidden gem- it was right there out in the open, and yet the media tried to bury it.
Scribblenauts Box Art
Scribblenauts is one of the most unique games imaginable. It uses the objectnaut engine developed by 5th cell to give the player the ability to call upon an object- just about any object to complete a goal. The player controls Maxwell, who is gifted with a magic notebook, which will instantly create any object that Max writes in it. Fans have found over 20,000 recognized words, but the developers say that this is just a fraction of the actual amount. The game's tagline, “Create Anything, Solve Everything” seems to promise unlimited potential, and it delivers.
Likewise, when the player creates an object, they don't have to use it for it's desired purpose. Yes, you can create a ladder to climb, but you can also turn it over sideways and set it on fire, or use the sideways ladder as a bridge. You'll push your creativity to the limit, because after you beat a level, you're invited to play it in an advanced mode, where you have to solve the same puzzle three times in a row without using the same word more than once. If you need to climb a ledge, if you use a rope once, you won't be able to use it again. You'll have to stack ladders or give Maxwell wings or find some other, non rope way to get that starite.
The goal of each level is to collect a starite. Sometimes the starite is on the screen and must be reached, but other times the player must solve a puzzle or do something to make the starite appear. The 200+ levels are split into two categories, “puzzle” and “action”. I'm about 6 worlds in, and I must say that I prefer the puzzle levels. The action levels are almost like a 2D platformer, whereas the puzzle levels are, well, puzzles. The puzzle element, I feel, is a much better use of the objectnaut engine.
There haven't been many complaints from people who have bought Scribblenauts, and honestly, I couldn't think of any. But I didn't believe that a game could be objectively perfect- I mean even Zelda has Navi, so I searched until I found some one-star reviews to find out what people might dislike. Turns out that there are several objects that I have yet to try that do... absolutely nothing.
GiantBomb Comic Featuring Scribblenauts
For example, there's a level in the game where you have to kill mice without hurting any other creatures in a screen full of creatures. One person tried to summon the Pied Piper to drown them, like in the fairy tale with that exact plot. That's a creative solution, but unfortunately, not one that existed in
the world of the game.
In a second example, a person had to get past an aggressive dog, and tried to use a muzzle. That seems like the perfect solution, however, when they dragged the muzzle object over the dog, it did nothing. The dog wouldn't wear it. What made that particularly annoying is that a muzzle to this person was an obvious solution to an aggressive dog; it's a real product that exists and is well known in the real world.
Where to Buy
Still, I love this game. The levels are short and autosave, so it's great if you don't have a lot of time to play. I can't stand a handheld that makes you dedicate huge chunks of time. And I've not had any problems with objects yet. I'm over halfway through the game and I haven't had any issues at all. And I like the way that you can use multiple objects to kind of 'build' what you need. You can, for example, create “meat” and “poison” and then use the bottle of poison to poison the meat to kill an enemy. You can weaponize animals; for example, in the mouse level that that 1-star review referred to, I used a cat rather than the piper.
Also, as far as the objects go- it would be ridiculous to expect the team to include every single noun in the English language. They've included more than I've ever tried to use. It's very rare that I'll write something and the notebook won't understand it. It will even summon proper nouns like Abraham Lincoln or Cleopatra, even though it says in the instructions that it won't work with proper nouns. I've loved the game so far, and look forward to playing around with it to see exactly what all I can summon.
© 2015 blargablarga