Scribblenauts DS Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Reviews

As a handheld title, 5TH Cell’s Scribblenauts is an amazing achievement. There’s so much going on in this ambitious game that you wonder as to just how they managed to accomplish it. So, what is scribblenauts? Well, basically if you can think of an object, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to summon it into the game; drugs, adult and trademarked objects not included.

It’s a wonderfully unique idea that had the developer scouring dictionaries to get as many objects as possible into the game and then getting them to mostly behave as you would expect them to. Summoning objects is done through inputting text (a thermometer on the top screen fills up with each item, assuring that you can’t break the game with too many objects), though I’m a little ahead of myself here, as Scribblenauts isn’t simply a gimmicky toy, there’s actually a game in here, as well.

A visually colourful and charismatic puzzle game to be specific, but to be even more on the money, it’s one of the most original puzzle games that you are ever going to play. The game contains a mammoth 220 puzzles, with all opening up with an objective: perhaps you’ll have to get some candy for a girl, though because a bully makes this linear and simple task much more of a mission, how about inviting a ghost into the game world? This will force that cowardly bully to run off, leaving you a clear path to get the candy to the sweet toothed girl.

The above is just one of many examples, and I can’t go on without mentioning a few more. You may have to give a certain amount of people something they would ordinarily hold in their hands, thus it’s possible to give a policeman a doughnut (the humour!) and a chef a spoon. Cat stuck on rooftop? Encourage it down with a juicy mouse. Give Santa something that he likes that isn’t already on the screen? A child will suffice. Right, I think I’ve said enough, though there’s no set solution to either of these puzzles, the game does reward you for using as few items as possible.

So, staying with some of the above puzzles and adding in some alternative solutions. Cat stuck on rooftop? Already mentioned that juicy mouse, although there’s also cat food and the good old fashioned ladder to climb up: getting the purring feline under your arm and heroically bringing it down, finishing up by returning it to its waiting owner. What else does Santa like? Angels, mistletoe and Christmas Balls should tickle his fancy. What to give the policeman and the chef this time around? A gun and a dish should work. I won’t spoil anything more, though lets just say that you haven’t truly completed a level until you’ve come up with at least four solutions, and said solutions can be many in number.

When solutions are met, starites (shiny stars) appear: picking them up will then end the level. Scribblenauts also has a ton of merits that are awarded to you at the end of levels, these range from completing a level with an object that you have never used before, writing a specified number of a particular object category, completing a level three times, and so on. There’s much variety and it’s satisfying to see your merits page mounting up with your achievements.

Back to the objects for a moment, these also marvellously behave in a manner that you’d expect them to. Summon a zombie and he’ll attack any human character, affecting him or her with the undead plague, resulting in them becoming zombies themselves. Call forth two wrestlers and they’ll fight each other, use a rope and you’ll be able to connect many of the objects together, a superhero will protect, a soldier will climb into a tank, and Satan will attack anyone and everyone. It’s fun to see how everything behaves and reacts to one another, and is entertainment in itself. Though, here I’ve noticed a few curious inconsistencies: for example, why does a cat ignore a rabbit? In the real world, a nasty cat just wouldn’t be able to resist the kill.

The game is split into action and puzzle levels. Action have you aiming to get your character (Maxwell) to the end of levels (the location of the starite), whilst puzzles are, well, all about completing puzzles. New areas (ten in total) are opened up in exchange for the games’ currency (ollars are earned at the end of stages), and in these new areas you’ll find brand new puzzles for you to overcome with the power of the stylus, as well as your all important word slinging ability.

There’s also a basic level editor, in which you choose a readymade template, and can then alter the behaviour of the various objects, create your own action levels, and then put them online for your friends to see. It’s interesting enough and will have creative types coming up with some really decent creations, though for many the toolset just won’t be deep enough. Given the vastness of the rest of the game, it’s an option that wasn’t really required, therefore its inclusion actually feels rather generous and is fun to play around with.

Scribblenauts does have a few problems, though. Firstly, there’s some things that you would think you would be able to do that just aren’t possible, though this is most likey due to limitations. More severe are the controls: mostly controlled by the stylus, they’re just not as precise as they should be and are the cause of many frustrating moments, though they’re not exactly the broken set-up that I had feared they would be.

Scribblenauts joins crosswords, Scrabble and Boggle as a game of words, though this game of words is a lot more imaginative than any of the aforementioned. It’s a very unique experience that just begs you to experiment with its built-in dictionary (the title screen even allows you to do this), and seeing what works and what doesn’t is all part of the fun of this strikingly clever game.

8/10

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