Scribblenauts has some of the biggest aspirations of any game this year. The concept being “Write Anything, Solve Everything” something, unfortunately, had to give. As what will probably go down as a lot of people’s disappointment of the year, Scribblenauts definitely has some problems, but it’s not all bad.
Scribblenauts is all about freedom. On any given puzzle there are always several different ways to solve whatever problem the game is presenting you. That can be as simple as giving a police officer, fireman, chef, or doctor “something they would use in their hands,” or as complicated as saving an alliance pilot from being shot down by “enemies”. By tapping on the notepad in the corner of the screen you can write any real-life physical object that’s not a place, proper name, suggestive material, shape, Latin or Greek root, alcohol, race, culture, vulgarity, or copyrighted. Most of the objects I thought of were there, and it almost becomes a game in itself to see if you can beat the system and come up with something that’s not included.
The main problem Scribblenauts has is the controls, which is kind of a big problem for a game to have. You control everything in the game with the touch screen, which when you’re trying to control a character and all the items you create can get a little frustrating. You move the main character, Maxwell, by touching the screen in the place you want him to move to. Sometimes when you touch a location Maxwell will jump over it if something is in his way and then turn around and just keep jumping over the object until you physically stop him.
This lack of direct character control caused several deaths over the course of my playtime with Scribblenauts. There were also several occasions of interacting with the wrong item I created thanks to the inaccurate control when several items are draped over one another. The controls are the biggest problem the game possesses, but if you can get past that there are some seriously rewarding puzzles to work your way through.
There are two different modes in Scribblenauts. The one that they present you with first and the one that I preferred during my playtime was the puzzle mode. These are usually levels that have something that needs to be solved happening in it. Like stopping a truck from running off the end of a broken bridge or figuring out how to move one thing somewhere else, these puzzles are usually not timed and are just a relaxing little situation to solve. The action mode is usually not timed either but does tend to have more moving parts to it. These levels usually consist of more environmental traps and happenings, like bombs falling off a slope that you have to get by.
The action levels are cool but the puzzle levels are really where I spent the bulk of my time. The only problems I had with the levels themselves, were that sometimes the hint that tells you how to solve the puzzle was a little too vague, and there were several occasions where I was in the middle of playing a level and the fail screen would just pop up for no reason I could discern.
Scribblenauts has some problems, but I keep going back and playing it more and more. So if you can put up with the weak control scheme, there are some truly inspiring moments that can occur. Scribblenauts had such a huge vision I can’t help but love it, and although sometimes it makes me want to throw my DS across the room, I’m still glad I spent the time playing it.