Scribblenauts is the video game equivalent of your first kiss: it's awkward, it's sweet and it's utterly memorable.
- An incredibly charming and interesting gaming experience, puzzles are brilliant and the dictionary is massive, tonnes of potential here
- Limited number of on-screen objects, movement controls are fickle, some objects don't interact the way you want them to
Scribbelnauts is like the [MOLE] on your girlfriend's face or the undercooked centre of your mom's [MEATLOAF] -- you accept the imperfections because you love the other aspects of it so much.
Price$ 59.95 (AUD)
Buy now (Selling at 6 stores)
You'll remember it for years to come and every so often, you'll think back upon it and get a little flutter in your stomach. It's one of those games that you can't help but like from the minute you pick it up. Despite a couple of issues, its ability to amaze and confound is incredibly potent and I highly suggest you play it.
I first fell in love with Scribblenauts at E3 after getting a hands-on demo and after playing through most of the review build, I can confirm that it's as addictive and ground-breaking as I originally thought. Navigating the well crafted levels and figuring out the best way to solve the ingenious puzzles was a true joy. I also found myself laughing out loud several times at the game's inherent charm and humor.
The game has a ton of built-in levels which fall into two categories: puzzle and action. You solve both levels by either acquiring an out of reach Starite-star pieces that serve as the in-game goal-or by fulfilling certain conditions. The objectives can range from mundane tasks like helping a young girl get her cat down from a tree or dealing with three trick-or-treaters who walk up to your door. For that puzzle, I gave them a treat by creating some [CANDY] and on a second attempt, I gave them a trick by conjuring up a [GHOST]. You can be as straightforward or as esoteric with your solutions as you want, which is the game's true charm. Each level has a par rating which dictates a minimum number of objects and using less than that nets you more points. You also earn ollars, which acts as the in-game currency, and you can spend it to unlock new levels and skins. You also get merits, which are like achievements, depending on what objects you used and how.
And of course, the in-game dictionary is absolutely stellar, with an insane number of items, both useful and obscure, for you to play with. I often found myself defaulting to reliable standbys like [JETPACK] and [SUBMARINE] but it was comforting to know that I could conjure up a [STOT] or an [EGG BEATER] if I really wanted to. There are some genuine surprises in there as well and I'm sure gamers will be finding little gems for a long time to come; be sure to try [TIME MACHINE] and [YOUR MOM].
The dictionary is really flexible and will even offer suggestions if you misspell a word or if an object has several different variations; [HERO] will bring up both the sandwich and a costumed superman and you can select which one best fits your needs. Trying to find something that isn't in the dictionary is a game in and of itself but your time will be better spent navigating the pre-built levels; there's also a robust level editor that let's you craft your own puzzles and I can easily see industrious gamers creating levels that match the developer's efforts.
One Size Fits All
But as much as I loved the game, there were a few issues that kept cropping up. For one, there's a limit on how many objects you can have at any given time, which meant no Rube Goldbergian contraptions. I was also disappointed by the limited interaction possibilities. For instance, one level had me contend with an angry guard bear; eschewing the obvious solution of [BEAR TRAPS] and a [GUN], I conjured up a [HONEY POT] and a [SLEEPING PILL]. I then tried to dose the sweet nectar and put the bear to sleep but I couldn't mix the two.
It's a lot to ask the developers to think of every possible combination considering the huge number of objects in the game, but it was disappointing that a logical plan was foiled right out of the gate. Of course, the game is flexible enough that I found several other ways to overcome the angry bear; in this case, I conjured up a [TANK] and blasted it away and on another attempt, I chased the bear away with a [BEE].
When I Move You Move
I was also disappointed by the way character movement was handled. The main character Maxwell is controlled by the stylus and not the directional pad-that controls the camera. You tap the spot you want him to move to and away he goes. Unfortunately, it's pretty spotty and one misstep will send Maxwell to his demise. The physics are also a bit wonky, resulting in some unexpected shenanigans. For instance, a metal [CHAIN] somehow weighs a million tons and will affect objects you attach it to in bizarre ways.
Now, these complaints may seem like deal breakers and they do diminish the enjoyment a little but it's like the [MOLE] on your girlfriend's face or the undercooked centre of your mom's [MEATLOAF]-you accept the imperfections because you love the other aspects of it so much.
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