The lights are on
From the "Best Original Game" award at E3 to the incredibly positive fan reception afterward, the general hype surrounding 5th Cell's Scribblenauts continued to build and build right up until its release. I, too, was pumped about the game and was even a bit worried about attempting to objectively write a review without letting my constantly growing Scribblenauts erection barge in a make a nonsensical mess of things. I mean, come on, a game in which you can type and interact with basically anything? The premise itself is just insane to think about.
If you haven't heard already, Scribblenauts is a action/puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. Players are armed with a limitless dictionary of words with which to solve each puzzle. Any word typed will automatically become reality, within reason (no trademarks, proper nouns, expletives, etc.) Puzzles are split up between ten different themed worlds. Each world contains a series of puzzle or action levels to choose from. Puzzle mode requires a more thoughtful and strategic approach, whereas action mode is more about using items to avoid obstacles and navigating from one area to another.Each world can be accessed in any particular order as long as you possess the credits or "ollars" necessary to unlock it. As you move from world to world, you won't notice a huge increase in difficulty. Once you complete world 2 and have learned the basics, all worlds seem to be on par with each other in terms of difficulty. This fits in nicely with the way that players can access levels asynchronously.
The first thing you'll notice about Scribblenauts, after you waste a few minutes summoning random mythical creatures in the main menu, is that you do not have any direct control over the main character, Maxwell. All of Maxwell's movements are executed with the stylus in a point and click manner. In fact, nearly everything in the game is stylus-controlled. The directional pad and face buttons are used only for camera adjustments. For some of the more cerebral puzzles, ones where you may have to move or equip just a few items, the controls work perfectly fine. It's when you are forced to do a bit more level navigation and platforming that the controls really begin to fall apart. Because essentially every action in the game is controlled with the stylus, in more complicated situations, it's nearly impossible complete one task with out accidentally performing another. You'll often find yourself unintentionally equipping items or attacking characters, when all you really meant to do was traverse a gap. The bizarre physics in Scribblenauts don't help much either. Items are extremely sensitive to character movement after being set in place. A carefully thought out item placement can be instantly rendered useless because of a simple misstep or jump. The desire for creativity begins to fade as a result of frustration, and sticking to a core group of items that always work (in my case; helicopters, jetpacks, bridge ladders) becomes more important than thinking of creative solutions.
The puzzles that don't depend a whole lot on platforming and character movement are the ones that tend to be really memorable. There are some extremely clever puzzles and possible solutions to discover. Once you've completed a level, you can replay it in "advanced" mode that will force to complete a level three consecutive times without using the same item twice. I found myself enjoying some of the earlier levels in advanced mode more than my first play through later levels. The item restrictions caused me to play more creatively and I ended up finding some really interesting solutions that I may not have thought of otherwise.The game certainly maintains the charm I had hoped for, especially in terms of art style and general lightheartedness. The soundtrack also fits in really nicely and contributes to what is a genuinely cute and humorous game. However, it doesn't really manage to pull things together in terms of control and "fun-ness". While it almost makes up for its shortcomings with a ridiculous amount of content and its ability to double as a nifty little tool to blow your non-gamer friend's minds, Scribblenauts ends up being a generally underwhelming experience.
Very nice review. great work.
Good review, Matt.
Thanks for reading, Cheez!
Pretty good. You would get 4 stars for the review from me, but I bring it up to 5 for the clever title. Way to draw the readers in.
Very well done, dude. Look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.
Wow. Thanks for that review. Now, maybe I'll get Professor Layton instead.
Good review. Someone please read my Fallout 3 review though.
Is this you dude??
Yeah. That's totally me, Ververdan. Same review. Same dude.
I'll be bloggin'/reviewin' at GI exclusively from here on out, but you may notice some crossover stuff for the time being.
Great Review. The movement of the character hit me a little harder though.
Nice review...I actually might re-buy a ds to get this game now...there goes 100 buxx :P
Nice review. It seems the game's major fault are the controls, that might stop me from getting it. I'll most likely still try it though.