Scribblenauts Review


The majority of games tend to follow the same idea. Go from a to b using specific items that the developer has decided to give you. In many ways Scribblenauts turns this logic on its head. A team of staff went through the dictionary and added huge chunks of it into a database describing what it is and how it should act. They then created a puzzle game around this database whereby you receive a challenge and have to work out how to complete it by summoning any items you can think of that may be able to help. So the overused example that makes the first level goes thus:

You have a tree and at the top of the tree is a star, you have to get the star down. How do you do that? Do you summon a beaver to gnaw through the tree? Throw a ball at it? Or simply place a ladder against the tree and climb to get it.

The idea is so very promising it was difficult not to get excited as someone who generally only buys puzzle games for handhelds. It received IGN’s game of E3 award due to its excellent idea. When the final copies came out though the same niggling little problems have annoyed everyone and they were the ones that annoyed myself and my wife as well (she is as into DS puzzle games as me).

The game revolves around a character called maxwell who has a notebook that you use to write all these words for them to appear. You then use the ds stylus to place your spawned creations… the stylus is also the only way to move maxwell and it is awful. For decades characters have been controlled by the humble D-pad or an analogue stick. The DS has a perfectly good one of the former, tapping the screen to move your character does not make sense as it does not give you direct control. Especially when you are also using the same idea to move items around. This frequently leads to times when either Maxwell will not go where you want him to or he doesn’t jump (also automatic) when he should and therefore walks casually into a pool of lava. Or he just won’t bloody get into a vehicle or other item. Argh, it would have in fact been easier to map his movement to a button than to fiddle around with the touch logic so why did you not do that fifth cell? You have incurred the wrath of game reviewers the world over for this idiocy, you ruined a perfectly brilliant idea with this one foible… I want direct control of my character, I don’t want to be frustrated by controls. The same logic goes for your decision to force the camera back onto Maxwell after a couple of seconds even if I am busy doing something elsewhere on the screen. I don’t want to see Maxwell, I am busy.

Scribblenauts then is one of the best game premises I have seen. The ability to spawn anything to help you to solve a puzzle is very impressive. The game just gets too annoying due to useless touch screen only controls and silly design choices. If you want something that makes you use your imagination then this is great for you just be prepared to be frustrated… as evidenced by my oft cussing wife.

4/10 (with d-pad controls it would be at least 8)