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Ephraim 225

kobalobasileus reviews Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts needs no introduction. It's one of the most in-depth puzzle games ever, and has a lot of unique features; namely, the ability to spawn any object in the game's vocabulary to solve whatever situation you happen to be in. Of course, some people get the wrong idea from that description, as you will -

"The Writing's on the wall". Grow up, 007.

“Scribblenauts” is an exceedingly ambitious little project created by 5th Cell, the guys who brought us the customizable title, “Drawn to Life.” Their first attempt at a game strove to be the DS equivalent of the PS2's “Graffiti Kingdom,” but failed spectacularly.

No need to check the Drawn to Life reviews, I already did for you. They're all 6/10 and up - not exactly a "colossal failure".

Despite 5th Cell's track record, the gaming media has hyped “Scribblenauts” to the moon and back, as the gaming media is prone to do.

You mean like they did with Final Fantasy? We know how those turn out.

The fact that “Scribblenauts” has such a large number of items that can be scribbled into existence is cheapened by the fact that many of the items look alike or are synonyms for each other.

I know! They really should have made different objects for "crate" and "box" even though there would be no point whatsoever!

The technical presentation has a few problems as well. “Scribblenauts” crashed on me several times while playing, and there are numerous game breaking bugs. I also noticed two lines of corruption on screen while playing several levels. These problems give “Scribblenauts” the look and feel of an unfinished game.

Game Breaking Bugs? I didn't see any bugs. It froze what, once in the months I was playing it?

The problem with the story in “Scribblenauts” is that there isn't one. The player is given a character in an incredibly stupid hat. The only way to learn his name is to read the instruction manual (who does that nowadays?) or use the in-game object-identifying magnifying glass and click on him.

The tutorial tells you his name. And you really should read the manual. Even if there's a tutorial you should still read the manual. They included it for a reason, right?

This character is, of course, named Maxwell, and he's out on a mission to collect things called Starites in order to.... well, nobody knows why Maxwell is collecting Starites. “Scribblenauts” contains no story exposition whatsoever. There is no introduction and there is no ending sequence aside from credits. Thus, there is no source of motivation whatsoever for the player to help Maxwell collect Starites, aside from the desire to collect Starites in and of itself.

There's no motivation to arrange Tetris blocks into lines, either, but I don't see people complaining about that, since they do it for hours at a time.

Platformers typically don't need the epic, sprawling stories of adventure games or RP Gs, but they do need something.

No. No they do not.

Actually, if the trappings of a character-driven platformer were removed, “Scribblenauts” would have been fine without a story. If there was no Maxwell and if there were no Starites to collect, the player could just look at the game as a god-sim. Guiding random people from Point A to Point B or creating objects to make random people happy from the perspective of a god would have neatly circumvented the need for a story or level-ending Mac Guffins to collect.

Except you're complaining about the plot in a freaking VIDEO GAME. Don't worry about the plot or anything, just enjoy the game! Is that so hard?

Where “Scribblenauts” utterly fails is with the gameplay. The game is divided into 11 themed worlds, each with 11 “puzzle” levels and 11 “action” levels. Action levels require moving Maxwell through various hazards to reach a visible Starite, whereas puzzle levels require fulfilling a condition to make a Starite appear. Unfortunately, toward the middle of the game, the puzzle levels begin to take on an increasingly actiony aspect.

That last remark confuses me. What do you mean, more actiony? Does that mean they get harder? Because they're kind of supposed to.

To move Maxwell, the player pokes a spot on the screen and Maxwell tries his best to get there. And by “tries his best,” I mean Maxwell spazzes-out more often than not and ignores all danger as he charges blindly toward the indicated spot, even if he can't reach it.... Unless, of course, the chosen spot is far enough from Maxwell that the camera needs to be moved in order to see it. In such cases, Maxwell ignores all movement commands until the camera comes closer to him.

Well, YOU are the one moving him, so you ought to make sure his path is clear before moving him.

Touchscreen movement is NEVER a good idea.

Bullshit, it can work in strategy and adventure games. Also, Phantom Hourglass and its boat.

Finally, the much-touted ability to solve the game's puzzles with ANYTHING is a bunch of hot air. Puzzles are incredibly limited in what actually works to solve them. If a player decided that they were going to solve every puzzle in the game with a zombie and a chicken, that player would be extremely disappointed.

Gosh, it's almost like I need to think to figure out the solution! Okay, you've got a locked door you need to open. Do you spawn a key, or a zombie? Duuuh, the zombie? NO YOU IDIOT, IT'S A PUZZLE GAME! You can use any object you want, but it doesn't mean they'll all work!

To get a gold star, the player must beat the level again, three times in a row, using different objects each time. For action levels in which the greatest challenge isn't creating a usable object but preventing Maxwell from committing suicide due to the wretched controls, playing them an extra three times is the antithesis of fun.

So don't. Challenge mode is optional. Also it isn't that hard to keep Maxwell from dying. You just have to not suck.

I tried to complete challenge mode, but gave up out of boredom in the middle of world 6. It wasn't an exercise in creating thinking, it was an exercise in patience and finding synonyms for the few objects that actually work.

Maybe you're just not that creative? Er, "creating?"

Sadly, the only fun I had with “Scribblenauts” was on the free-play title screen. On the title screen, there is no objective. It's just a sandbox environment where the player can create whatever objects they want and watch how these objects interact. It's the type of timewaster I'd expect from a $1 DSiWare title or an iPhone app. It's definitely not worth the price of a DS game.

Hence why it has puzzles for you to solve so you get your money's worth. Ignoring it would be just plain silly.

“Scribblenauts” tries to be a puzzle game and a platformer but fails at both.

I don't recall the game being advertised as a platformer. Sure it's 2D, but you're not hopping around platforms, you're solving puzzles!

And that's the review. Game designers, take note: Your game must have a compelling story and let the player do anything he wants to solve the puzzles, or else this reviewer will hate your game!


Kobalobading-dong complaining about not being able to do whatever the hell he wants sort of makes me die a little inside. For one, that's the point. You're supposed to be solving puzzles, and the limited resources you have to do so adds to the challenge. Another thing is that who in their right minds would only use a zombie and chicken? Wouldn't a jetpack and Excalibur be more useful as the only two items you'd have to use if you're going for a self inflicted challenge? Also, even games with a heavy emphasis on choice don't let you execute every single possible action in any given scenario.
AwesomeZombie22 22nd Apr 11
A zombie and a chicken sounds like a great tool for solving any problem, I don't know what you're talking about :P

Also, out of curiosity, will you also do wrong & stupid positive reviews? Gotta be some gems there too, although, well, I guess it's true as they say, haters gonna hate.
slowzombie 23rd Apr 11
I actually found Scribblenauts very disappointing myself. I went in expecting puzzles that could be solved dozens of different ways. I got a game that seemed to expect you to use about a dozen items total to solve its puzzles. Sure, it has a multi-thousand-word vocabulary... and only a dozen of the thousands of items have any use.

But this guy manages to ignore all the real problems and make himself look like a fool.
ManCalledTrue 23rd Apr 11
^^ He runs the risk of losing readers if he does that badly.
SpellBlade 23rd Apr 11
@slowzombie: I'm sure there are wrong and stupid positive reviews as well, but those are harder to find, because when a game is So Bad Its Horrible, Game FA Qs is usually in agreement. For once. But if I found such a review, I'd blog about it for sure.
Ephraim225 23rd Apr 11
^^ In general, one does risk losing readers if one does anything badly, but yeah, I see your point.:P
slowzombie 24th Apr 11
Touchscreen movement is very much a YMMV thing. Personally, I can't think of a single game where I've preferred it over simply using the D-pad. And I *hated* it in Phantom Hourglass. Haven't played Spirit Tracks yet.
KendraKirai 4th May 11
By "Actiony" he means the puzzles toped being along the lines of "scare the kids" but "get past this Tornado!" Essentially substitutes for action levels. SN also has ONE crash scenario but it doesn't work out that badly.

And yeah, the controls for SN kind of were shady; it's why they changed them for SSN.

And yeah, i have to admit that Challenge mode usually just boils down to "tape/glue" "chain/rope/wire" "Pegasus/pterodactyl/roc" Just check the ign walkthrough they CAN get repetitive, although this doe make the more challenging ones all the better treats.

JusticeMan 6th Sep 11
"Except you're complaining about the plot in a freaking VIDEO GAME. Don't worry about the plot or anything, just enjoy the game! Is that so hard?"

Moffs Law, folks. Being a video game or whatever doesn't give it a free pass for criticism or analysis.
Flanker66 26th Nov 11