Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Ent.
Developer: 5th Cell
It’s been awhile since I was as pumped and let the hype of a video game get to me the way that Scribblenauts did. The early previews and word on the street painted this game as the second coming of innovation. Scribblenauts would allow you to use a word list of over 20,000 words to let your imagination go wild in solving numerous puzzles to retrieve mystical starites. It was what 5th Cell was coining as “emergent gameplay”. As the subtitle suggests, you could write anything and solve everything. While the game is charming and it’s fun to see how certain things interact, the controls, camera, and some confusing interactions really drag this game down.
Scribblenauts consists of 10 worlds with 11 puzzle and 11 action levels to each world for you to solve with Maxwell, your mentally challenged lemming of a main character. The main draw of the game is that you can type/write pretty much any item, creature, or thing and it will appear for you to place in any given level. The object of a puzzle level is to fulfill certain conditions to cause a starite to appear. An example would be that a you might need to give a doctor something that he would use everyday. Items such as patient, clipboard, or stethoscope would solve the puzzle and cause the starite to appear and end the level. Action puzzles show you where a starite is and task you with navigating the level by creating objects to reach the starite. They also give you conditions such as not breaking or killing something. At the end of each level, you are given an amount of “ollars” based off of your performance such as how many items you used and the time it took you to complete the level. Ollars can be used to unlock different avatars for use in the game, new worlds, and music to listen to from the game. Each level can also be completed in advanced mode to get a gold star on the given level. To complete a level in advanced mode, you have to finish it three times without using any item more than once.
That’s the game. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? You’re ready to just close your respective internet browser, toss on your coat, grab your keys, and run to the nearest game retailer to immerse yourself in crazy puzzle goodness, aren’t you? Well hold on right there cowboy. While it looks fantastic in print, the execution is where this game will make you want to rip your DS in half and feed it to a feral horse.
First and foremost, the control scheme for this game is terrible. All of Remedial Class Maxwell’s movement is done via the touch screen. The same screen and controls are used to place objects that you summon. A lot of times you’ll find yourself trying to place an object on the screen just to have our Helmet Hero Maxwell jump off a damn cliff and into some lava to his fiery and well deserved death. Having him fly around in a vehicle is often a chore also, as you will find often find yourself accidentally tapping the vehicle causing Future Darwin Award Winner Maxwell to jump out of his helicopter and into a pit of hungry zombies. Too bad for the zombies, as Have You Seen My Baseball Maxwell seems to not have any brains at all.
When you’re not fighting the controls, you have to deal with the absurd camera. You see, instead of mapping Hooked On Phonics Worked For Me Maxwell’s controls to the d-pad or face buttons for precise control, they mapped the camera to both sides. While this wouldn’t be an issue if the touch screen controls were better, the camera will automatically start to snap to Living for Dummies Maxwell. Once again, there will be a lot of times that this will cause something unfortunate to happen to our hero.
My final complaint is more my issue than it is the games. While there is a dictionary of over 20,000 items at your disposal, I found myself using a lot of the same items. There is practically no puzzle that can’t be solved with a jetpack, rope, and a shovel. Throw in a pterodactyl and a knight every once in a while and you’ll be a winner every time. I found it a little baffling at how some of the objects reacted to others and the physics to be a little wonky at times also. Attaching rope to items could be a chore at time due to how the game handles it’s movement during placement.
I find myself struggling between a love/hate relationship with this game. On one hand, it’s innovative and full of charm. I was at first stuck messing around with items at the title screen for a good 20 minutes before I got into the game proper. This speaks incredibly for it’s character. On the other hand though, actually playing the game was more painful and frustrating than I could bear at times. I recommend that if you know somebody who has a copy or you have a gamefly account, give it a shot before plopping down your hard earned cash in these oh so hard economic times.