Subtitled ‘Write Anything, Solve Everything,’ Scribblenauts became an instant hit when it was first shown at E3 earlier this year – immediately gaining enormous recognition for its fresh approach and innovation, going on to win numerous ‘Best of Show’ awards.
With such high acclaim and a certain amount of buzz surrounding the title, I was keen to see how unique it was and just how different it could be in comparison to what we’ve experienced previously within the puzzle genre – fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.
Scribblenauts utilises, as its subtitle suggests, a mechanic that allows the player to allow any object to be created within levels just by writing its name on the touchscreen menu. Placing the player within a broad variety of puzzle situations, such as overcoming hazards to collect items or producing a meal that is suited to a certain character, these mechanics must be implemented to allow you to complete your task and collect “Starite’s.” With the ability to summon pretty much any item from your imagination via the use of a Magical Notepad, the scope and depth here in terms of solving these puzzles is huge – allowing there to be multiple methods that will allow you to provide solutions to your goal.
Each item also has the attributes that you’d expect from them – Dogs will chase Cats, Hot Air Balloons can hover across the levels, Fishing Rods can be used to catch fish from water etc, and in this regard, the game continually impresses. You will spend the majority of your time interacting with the items you create, which provides a great sense of involvement in achieving objectives – as well as an immediate sense of wonder at trying to think of the most obscure items.
I guess the beauty of the game lies in the fact that you can either choose to work your way through the puzzles or just mess about on the main menu with various objects – I initially decided to have a bit of fun on the main menu, and having created a Dragon I spent most of my time running around the screen trying to avoid it, before equipping myself with a sword and shield so that I could attack back! To be vulnerable to your more aggressive creations was certainly a surprise!
Alongside the core challenge puzzles, there is also a nifty Level Editor allowing you to select templates of puzzle levels that you have already completed. You can modify the behaviour of the humans and animals you place within the level, as well as setting your own objectives for completion – a nice addition, and another chance to experiments!
Each puzzle sets you with a par number of items to complete the level with, the idea obviously being that you aim to use less than this, therefore, gaining more ‘Ollar’ that are used within the Ollar Shop to unlock songs and new avatars. The puzzles offer plenty of variety too, both in difficulty and style, and you’ll more often than not stumble on a couple of them as you try to figure out exactly what the game wants you to do.
In this regard, there were a few cases in which I felt that I had provided a valid solution – one particular example was having to provide Santa with something he enjoys to consume at Christmas, as you aren’t allowed to create alcohol I thought the obvious choice would be Mince Pies yet the game rejected this idea…! It turns out that Santa doesn’t actually like Mince Pies but instead loves sweets/ candy, as do we all of course, yet circumstances like this appear on rare occasion but will undoubtedly leave you scratching your head in bewilderment.
Another issue lies within the physics of the items, often you’ll find yourself creating items and placing them onto the terrain only to try to interact with or walk across them to knock them over and render them useless. As far as I was aware there was no ability to twist items to a specific angle to correct this, meaning you have to recreate the item to try again – increasing your par unnecessarily in the process. You will also attempt to interact or give items to NPC’s, only to throw them… which, when happening repeatedly, can become easily annoying.
Scribblenauts is a title that will provide an entirely new puzzle experience. The ability to be able to conjure any item to aid you allows for an entirely fresh angle and on the most part, 5th Cell has produced a highly enjoyable title – even though a few minor issues detract from the gameplay on rare occasion. Still, it’s well worth picking up… so get scribbling!
Version Tested: Nintendo DS
Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment