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Review: Scribblenauts
by Tyson Breen

Ever since it was shown at E3 2009, 5th Cell's creative Nintendo DS puzzle game Scribblenauts has had an overwhelming amount of hype and anticipation for its release. For those of you who don't know, Scribblenauts gives the promise of letting the player solve action puzzles using literally thousands of nouns. All one has to do is think of something they would like to conjure and simply type it on the bottom screen and it instantaneously appears on the screen to be used however seen fit. Now that the game is on shelves, could it possibly live up to the amount of coverage and buildup it has received in the past few months?

It's sort of telling that before Scribblenauts even gives the player a menu, it drops them right into a playground title screen to mess around with the item generator. I say this because this is easily the most impressive part of the game, and rightfully so. Being able to summon anything that comes to mind is a power that no other game has given before and, for the most part, 5th Cell has kept their word. Scribblenauts has pretty much everything you would ever think of, jam packed into a tiny cartridge (copy written material and profanity omitted, of course). There is a shortcoming however, in the fact that a lot of words give the same result, for instance; "monster" and "boogeyman". Another issue that arises from having so many things in the game is glitches between objects interacting. This is pretty much an unavoidable problem however, as the game would have been in testing for years if they were to check how every object interacts with one another. Overall, the item creation is a blast and its problems are easily forgivable.

After messing around with the title screen to get acquainted with the item creation, players will want to jump into the actual game. Scribblenauts consists of over 200 levels that range from quite easy to frustrating. Of these 200 or so levels, there are two different types - puzzle and action. Puzzle levels require the player to complete a specific scenario by using created objects, such as "reunite girl and cat" or "stop the runaway truck". Upon completion of the objective, the player will be rewarded with a starite, the game's form of collectable. The other type of levels, action, will simply require the player to maneuver the games main character, Maxwell, around the level to reach a starite. In addition, each level can be done again in advanced mode which challenges to beat the level three times in a row without using the same items. The level design is generally great in Scribblenauts, offering cute and colorful environments and objects. However, players will find themselves being able to solve every level with the same few items and this makes the game feel a little repetitive and dull.

Scribblenauts is predominately a fun game but there is one major problem that takes away from full enjoyment: the controls. With the exception of moving the screen around the level, all of the games controls are done with the touch screen. The annoyance occurs in this because moving your character and moving objects is the same action. This creates huge amounts of frustration by creating such situations as trying to pick up an object and incidentally making Maxwell jump into a pit of lava and attempting to make him walk across a bridge only to pull the bridge out from beneath his feet. By making the d-pad control the character, this issue could have been easily avoided and, although it doesn't take away a great deal from the game, it certainly diminishes a lot of fun from some of the levels.

Scribblenauts comes with plenty of unlockables to obtain. Things such as new avatars for your character and songs give the game a little bit of variety. Scribblenauts also includes a level editor. It feels sort of tacked on and last minute however. It allows the player to take a completed level and changed items around and add new ones using the item creator. This mode isn't particularly appealing as it doesn't allow for actual level creation, and instead allows for manipulation of existing levels.

Scribblenauts is a charming game and a technological accomplishment. Its item creation makes up in quantity what it lacks in quality. This also applies for the games levels, as they are somewhat repetitive. The experience is clouded by its poor controls, but people who are interested in the game will most likely be able to ignore this problem. With plenty of unlockables and a level editor to fool around with, Scribblenauts will last a long time to players who enjoy the game. In a world full of copy-cat game design, its great to see developers trying something different and thinking outside the box and Scribblenauts is a game that should not be passed up by gamers looking for a break from the typical experience.


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- Tyson Breen

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