Game Reviews
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Scribblenauts: Hardcore Fun with Casual Appeal

I’ve been out of portable gaming for a while. Let me just state that I rarely ever find something worth sticking with on my handheld consoles. To me the idea of playing them at home when I have consoles is a strange thought. Not to mention that I drive everywhere I go so the idea of needing to entertain myself with a game while traveling doesn’t fit me. So when I cleared four of this game’s worlds in a single day you can assume that I liked it, a lot.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what Scribblenauts is let me explain it to you. You write whatever you want to appear into existence and then use it to help you complete missions or solve puzzles. The more creative you are, the less objects you’ll need to scribble, hence the more points you will get for each level. It’s an insanely ambitious concept that is not without its flaws, but more on them later. I want to get you as enthralled as I was when I first started playing this.

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The game rewards your creativity. Things do work in a very close reciprocity as you would expect them in real life. Dogs chase cats, birds like bread, and Cavemen need fire. The games puzzles are so basic at times that you may completely over think them. Really, this game could be played by a five year old. Its aesthetics lend it to that impression on first glance as well. Later on you will find a mixture of harder puzzles, but those will be from a variance on not paying close attention to the landscape or not understanding the task at hand.

If you’re even slightly OCD you’re going to want to complete every level in each world just for some measure of closure or pride. This isn’t required as you use points earned in other levels to purchase new worlds for new puzzles. Although I guarantee if you think something is hard on a previous world you’ll find one to match it on the next, so being prepared is a plus. You can earn points by solving older puzzles different ways which gives you a good incentive retry even the easiest of levels to see how different you can complete it the next time.

You will enjoy just trying the extensive and crazy library of words that this game has. In order to solve one puzzle, I got inventive and used God to kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The amount of research that went into this would have driven me crazy. Not only did they have to have an impressive array of creatures, objects, vehicles and people, but they had to be correct in their assumptions on how they’d interact and how players would use them.

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The game rewards creativity and there are an extreme amount of ways to complete any given task. The game has its bases covered well in variety and replayability and the designers dedication in how much they covered shines through. However the controls don’t necessarily work as well as the concept. At times you will have the entire puzzle solved a hundred different ways, but you will struggle with the execution. For instance controlling a vehicle to lead an animal to safety, only to drop the animal or eject out because you got your stylus too close to something is very common.

The control issues stem from the fact that you are constantly using the stylus to move character Maxwell as well as select items with which you can move. The d-pad is used only to pan the camera for a survey of the landscape. Not that doing so is unimportant, quite the opposite, but movement with precision is more important for completion of a level. There are times when you will complete a mission for sheer dumb luck because of the control issues. For instance when tasked to defeat insects to reclaim flowers, I spawned a flamethrower, collecting all but one of them only to remove the weapon and have it crush the flower. Needless to say this ended the mission, and was integral because the character cannot hold more than one item at a time.

Recently I had just started to seriously play through Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a game that requires more time than intelligence. I can honestly say that the hardest of Layton’s puzzles were not as infuriating as some of these here, and we had previously established that a kindergartner could do these. That’s alright because there’s a unique idea and way of thinking that each player will bring. In order to keep a boat from steering into an iceberg, you may choose to put up a barrier and I may choose to create a giant squid to scare the captain a way. Two different methods, similar results. Children have sharper and quicker minds and all that. No shame in losing to your niece or nephew.

There's a lot more than just this in the game's library.

So yes, I can see a lot of people getting pissed, stumped, or confused by a lot in this game. The concept will only carry it so far, but in my view it is far enough to warrant a purchase. Even with how awkward the controls are at times, you do start learning on how to avoid conflicts such as selecting the wrong items or piloting aircraft. It simply doesn’t control as intuitive as something you might be accustomed to on the DS. I’m not giving the developers a free pass, but I’m encouraging you to give it a whirl regardless.

For those who might have high expectations for this game I ask you to lower them in order to enjoy this. Not because it’s a terrible experience but because very ambitious titles always have a hitch in them. For what it does right it does better than any other game out there. You finally have a puzzle game that doesn’t have one right answer and which’s solution is as diverse as its players. However what it gets wrong is so simple and basic, which are always the most dire of game ruining marks. Still, what its worth it got me, a hardcore console gamer to put aside the big names and aim small. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

1 comments
deftangel
deftangel

I was not impressed this got delayed over here. Still waiting for my copy!