Scibblenauts Review: Thinking Your Way To Fun
When it comes to video games, incorporating the written language into a game is a tricky thing. Most games that have words as a central gameplay element tend to fall into the great gaming abyss of edutainment. However, one game has come along and changed all that; “Scribblenauts” may be the first game ever released, by a company that doesn’t begin with “Pop” and end with “Cap,” to use words in a way that actually engages gamers. The game’s hype-cycle went into hyper-drive at this year’s E3, and hasn’t stopped since, reaching levels unseen for a third-party DS game, but now that the game is finally out, can it live up to gamers lofty preconceived notions of what to expect?
Yes. It can.
It’s the first game that doesn’t give you the tools to play, but it gives you the ability to create the tools to play. In case you’ve missed the many, many blog articles, interviews, and general musings on the game in recent months, the basic gist of “Scribblenauts” is that you play as Maxwell who is on a quest to collect Starites. As the player, you need to come up with items that will help Maxwell solve the problem posed in each puzzle. The items that you come up are entered into the game via an onscreen keyboard, and can be virtually any real world items that ultimately help out Maxwell. No matter how much of an “open-world” experience, “Grand Theft Auto” is, this is the first game that I’ve ever played, where I thought I was only bound by my own creativity, therein creating an ostensibly “open world” game.
If you can’t tell, this review is headed in a mostly positive direction. However, there are a few things that hold “Scribblenauts” back from being the all-time-ultimate-amazing-granddaddy-DS game ever, and I’d like to get those out of the way first.
The game’s most glaring problem is the controls. Inputting letters to create the words is spot on, but once you have to move Maxwell around, and have him interact with the items that you’ve created, you’re bound to get a little frustrated. If you point somewhere on the screen, Maxwell will run there, or if you point at something, Maxwell will pick it up. However, combining the two doesn’t really work that well, and usually results in mad touchscreen tapping. However, one of the most difficult tasks in the game is trying to attach two items together with glue, which will take you a solid five minutes, and a round of curse words to accomplish.
At its heart, “Scribblenauts” is a puzzle game, and, even though it has one of the most adorable characters of the year, as its poster boy, the game lacks a plot, or any kind of a story even. Each level has the same goal, collect the Starite, and once accomplished you move on to the next level to do the same thing. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to really have too in-depth of a story, since, it is, a puzzle game, but with such a great character, it seems like there was a bit of a missed opportunity here. Which leads me into one of the game’s biggest problems…
How can there really be a sequel? Fans are, undoubtedly, going to want more of this game, but since “Scribblenauts” is such a complete package, there’s no real way to make another one. Oh well, it looks like $30 will be all you need to spend on this franchise, ever… unless it comes to the iPhone.
Since my problems with the game has devolved to the theory that people are going to want more, it’s safe to move on now to the good amazing aspects of the game. Obviously, the most outstanding part of “Scribblenauts” is the game’s gimmick – you can literally play with anything you can think of in the game (as long as it’s a socially acceptable noun). You are only bound by your imagination in this game, and that is a true first for video games.
In addition to the gameplay being able to go on as far as your vocabulary is big, the game also offers the ability to create and share levels, there in making “Scribblenauts” the game that you’ll be playing all this year, and next year, and the year after that.
Best of all, and I think I mentioned this once or twice, “Scribblenauts” actually makes you think. There are so many games in today’s market that either hold your hand as you play, doing virtually everything for you, or the game’ consists of basic tasks, like shooting things, and you don’t really have to think about anything. “Scribblenauts” finds itself one step past edutainment, and actually into the realm of entertainment, the only catch being that it helps to be on point with your spelling skills.
If there was one game that came out of nowhere at this year’s E3 to be the darling of the show, it was “Scribblenauts.” At first glance the graphics seem to give the game a childish feel, however, the phrase, “you can never judge a game by its case” applies here more than any other game ever released. “Scribblenauts” has a unique premise, addictive gameplay, and virtually infinite replayability. What more could you ask for in a game? So, the controls are a little wonky. Deal with it. If you own a DS then there’s no reason you should overlook this game, unless you have some literacy problems, and, in which case, I doubt you made it this far into the review.
“Sribblenauts” was developed by 5th Cell and published by Warner Bros. Interactive for the Nintendo DS on September 15th, 2009.