Scribblenauts Review

While I have to give Scribblenauts a lot of credit for being one of the most creative platform/puzzle games I've ever played, I wish that I could say that I had better than a love/hate relationship with the game. To break down my on-again, off-again relationship with the game, let's first look at the love part and then at the hate...

Scribblenauts includes two types of puzzles it refers to as action and puzzles levels, both of which award you a star upon completion. The puzzle levels present you with a problem to solve and if you succeed you'll earn your star. The action levels place the star somewhere in the level and challenge you to overcome the intervening obstacles to reach the star. Both types of levels are solved by summoning tools, objects, animals, or people to aid you, all of which can be brought into play by typing the item's name into the game. The number of items available in the game is astounding and numbers in the thousands. With the exception of copyrighted material and alcoholic beverages, you can type just about anything that you can think of and see it pop into the game. Furthermore, many of these objects can be combined and manipulated in numerous ways, so if you want to ride on the back of a panda riding a unicycle to reach the other side of the screen it's easy to do so in the game. You can also move or remove summoned objects at any time, so you can use the same hunter to get rid of a tiger and a bear on different platforms in a level or remove a rampaging t-rex once it's gobbled down your adversaries.

The number of ways to solve some of the puzzles is only limited by your own imagination. For example, an early action level places the star in a tree and challenges you to retrieve it. You could go for some easy solutions like summoning a ladder to climb or an axe to chop down the tree, or even bringing in a lumberjack to fell the tree for you, but there's no need to go with such mundane solutions when you could ride on a giraffe or the aforementioned unicycling panda to reach the star. In fact, the game will award you with a gold star if you can solve a puzzle three times in a row using a completely different set of objects each time. It's also interesting watching how various items will interact when summoned, such as seeing whether a monkey can ride a bicycle or who would win a fight between a vampire and a zombie.

There's always a certain amount of anticipation as to what the game will come up with next when you're starting a new level and it's a lot of fun to watch your creative approach to solving a puzzle work brilliantly, but just when things are going great they'll suddenly sour and the frustration will set in. Part of this is due to some levels giving you a vague goal or not accepting a seemingly viable solution. For example, one level asks you to help celebrate a wedding, but rice or a cake won't work while confetti will. However, what's really at the heart of the game's troubles is its controls. First of all, combining objects can be a tedious process. When you drag one object over another the possible contact points are highlighted, but it can be pretty tricky to get the game to actually make the attachment. Connecting a rope between two objects or trying to glue them together is an entirely too time-consuming and tiresome operation - so much so that sometimes I just gave up and decided to come up with another solution instead. The imprecise touch controls are an even bigger problem when it comes to moving your character around a level. Sometimes you'll click on the ground and your character will simply stand in place and at others you'll click on an object and then watch in frustration as your character takes off running to the spot and falls to his death in an intervening hole. There are also times when your character will die in even more frustrating ways, such as the time when I built a bridge over a gap and when I ordered my character across it he ran into it instead, knocked it down the gap, and then fell to his death as he tried to run over the gap. These inane deaths also mean that you must restart the level from scratch, so a suicide will force you to go through the process all over again from the very start. There were times when I got so frustrated by a series of inane accidental deaths due to the controls that I just stopped playing and turned the game off.

Scribblenauts is a great game concept loaded down by some very frustrating baggage. I'll leave up to you to decide if that's the kind of relationship that you want to get yourself into.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 70%. You'll need to find creative ways to ways to solve the game's puzzles while it finds creative ways to frustrate you.


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