* Awarded 'Best Puzzle Game' 2009, 'Most Innovative' 2009

The ultimate problem solver has arrived and his name is Maxwell, star of the Nintendo DS action puzzler Scribblenauts. With only your imagination and a notepad, Maxwell will travel the land solving all sorts of normal and obscure problems.

It wasn’t until E3 2009 that Scribblenauts grabbed the attention of the mainstream media, and like all others when I seen the footage of the game I was sold. Scribblenauts is an important release even if you can’t gel with the create-it-yourself gameplay. The creative nature of the game stands on a platform all by itself. Creating your own content isn’t anything new from a PC gaming perspective, but no other game has ever implemented as a straight-up gameplay mechanic. How about that... using you imagination as tool... it’s quite clever and ingenious. It’s no wonder WB Interactive picked up this rare concept from 5th Cell. So enough of the hype lets get into it.

"Problem Solved"
The point in Scribblenauts is to solve problems one level at a time. In a Mario-esq numbering system you will enter each world and work through the various challenges. The purpose of a level is to retrieve the Starite fragment which is rewarded after you complete the goals. These goals are pretty much puzzles that can be solved by using your magical notepad to summon items you help you. Like golf there is a par of how many items you can use and a scoring system compete with Merit rewards for doing good.

This notepad is located in the top right corner of the screen and in it you can type in any name of an object and it will appear out of thin-air. Obviously to keep the game rated in “E10+” bracket, and to avoid lawsuits there are ground rules. These rules fall into four categories of things you can summon. #1- Must Be a Physical Thing, #2- No copyrighted brands like Pepsi, #3- Must be in the in-game Dictionary which supports over 20’000 words! And lastly #4- No illicit material like sexual devices, alcohol, or drugs.

When creating its important to think about the object you will summon and your surroundings. Each scenario in the game will have a number of ways to solve the problem. For example in one the first puzzle area of the game (The Gardens) you will be asked to reunite a girl and her kitten who is stranded on top of a house. To get the kitten back to her owner you can do a number of things from burning down the house, to creating a "ladder" to climb up to reach the kitten. Fire seems to work in a lot of solutions; however you are rewarded for non-violent resolves. Continuing, if you are really clever you typed “Fireman” to have a Fireman snag the kitten for you, or any flying object to reach the roof, this could include everything from a “Jetpack” to "Wings" to a “Pegasus”. Since all the problems have multiple ways you can solve them the only limitations in Scribblenauts is a lack of imagination.

"A Fist Full of Ollars"
Completing levels will earn you “Ollars” which is the games currency. Ollars are used to by new character avatars like an alien, witch, pirate, ninja, or a shaman. You can also buy new song tracks, and most importantly new challenge levels. Even though “Scribs” uses a money system, money isn’t worth worry about. Levels can be replayed to make more cash and as you beat them, they become harder and at the same right, more rewarding. So feel free to go nuts and buy all the songs and avatars you wish.

"Lots, and Lots, and Lots, of Levels"
In total there are 220 levels split between 10 different worlds, and each world is divided into two types of levels, action and puzzle. Action levels require you to get to a starite that is far away causing you to traverse different obstacles. This is a lot different then the puzzle levels which have to be completed before the starite appears. The puzzle levels of the game are way more interesting then the action oriented levels as it’s the main mode presented. The amount of brain work really kicks up when dealing with a puzzle.

"Make Your Own Levels"
Scribblenauts also includes a level editor which is sadly a little disappointing. The level editor is what you think, a level editor, however it doesn’t let you construct your own levels from scratch. There are a lot of restrictions in place and you will have to deal with the original layout from the in-game missions. In here you can add objects and change their behaviours. It is unlikely that too many gamers will spent a lot of time in here since you don’t have the same amount of freedom as the developer, and with 200+ levels why would you need more. If you manage to create a few, or know someone who did, you can share your creation through the Nintendo DS friend code system.

"Are We On The Moon?"
For issues outside the limitations of the level editor, I would have to mention the games controls. Scribblenauts is controlled mainly with the stylus with the face buttons, or D-pad controlling your view point, and the shoulder buttons to rotate objects. The controls are a little loose and can cause the game to be more frustrating then necessary. Maxwell can be a slippery little devil and he doesn’t always do exactly what you want him to. Beyond some problems in precise control for Maxwell, the items have no weight, so they too get bounced all around. Sometimes completing a simple task like putting flowers in a basket can become a mess when someone hits the basket, it falls, the flowers fall out, and you have to pick up the basket, move to a spot where it won’t be hit. Drop it, make sure its sitting properly, go back and grab the flowers and hope when you put them in the basket doesn’t spill over.... and that’s only putting flowers in a basket. You can imagine how frustrating it can be, and everything from a tank to a flower has the same weight and ability to bounce around the world when hit.

Scribblenauts might have a few problems, but the positives outclass the bad. The games over 20’000 words alone makes Scribblenauts a game that can be played forever. Sure, the puzzles will become old hat after you beat them a few times, but then you can switch up your strategy and try new things. It’s almost impossible to try all variations of being a level with the unlimited amount of options.

As you play through the game you might also feel a little enlightened as your imagination stir up the creative-thinking juices. Maxwell can’t get it done alone, he needs your help. This is the best aspect about Scribblenauts is not only that you get to use your imagination to solve the problems. No right or wrong answer here as long as the job gets done. Factors like this aren’t even possible in other games. It’s no wonder the buzz has been so high about this new puzzle game, Scribblenauts is a diamond in a pile of rocks and worth your attention.

  • One-of-a-kind, original and interesting
  • Gameplay is only limited by your imagination
  • Over 200 levels to challenge
  • 20’000+ items can be created at anytime
  • Replay value is through the roof
  • Kid-friendly graphics play the part
  • Multiple ways to solve a problem
  • Controls are a little too loose
  • No real-world weight to the objects
  • Some levels can be frustrating
  • Sound isn’t anything spectacular
Quote: "Scribblenauts might have a few problems, but the positives outclass the bad. The games over 20’000 words alone makes Scribblenauts a game that can be played forever. Sure, the puzzles will become old hat after you beat them a few times, but then you can switch up your strategy and try new things. It’s almost impossible to try all variations of being a level with the unlimited amount of options."
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 09.17.09

Similar Games: Scribblenauts Unlimited (6.7) | Super Scribblenauts (7.8)



WB Interactive

5th Cell
Released (US)
September 09