Scribblenauts review
Excellent and fresh gameplay but with frustrating controls.


There aren't too many games out there that are in the same category as Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS... yes it's full of levels with predetermined endings, but the game is not so much about finding the Starite that you need to complete levels as it is about how you find it. And it's that potential for extreme creativity that sets it apart from the rest.

The game is based around a huge dictionary of thousand of objects and creatures that you can summon into the world in just a few clicks. The goal is to use these objects to complete the various levels in the game and get to the Starite. The levels are divided into two modes, puzzle levels and action levels. In puzzle levels, you're given a task which is indicated sometimes rather vaguely by a hint when you start the level, and when you complete it you are rewarded with the Starite. For example, you may have to figure out how to wake up a sleeping boy and feed a hungry little girl in earlier levels, or figure out how to stop a steady stream of bombs blocking your path in later ones. In action levels, the Starite is somewhere on the map when you begin, and it's your job to somehow navigate the map to reach it. For example, in earlier levels you may have to figure out how to levitate yourself up a large mountain to get to the Starite atop it, and in later ones you may have to play around with different switches, buttons, enemies, and people to open doors and teleport yourself around the map until you finally end up where you need to be. Whatever it is you need to do to get Maxwell, your little, weird-looking character to that Starite, you'll need to use the game's object and creature library to do it.

The game also features an Ollar Store (Ollars being the currency in the world) where you can purchase new avatars and listen to the game's various soundtracks, a Level Editor where you can create your own custom Scribblenauts levels, and a menu where you can play those levels that you have created as well. While creating a level may sound like fun, it's actually pretty tedious, and often it's difficult to make something really challenging, so you won't find yourself spending much time here.

If you would like to play around with the different objects or try new and different things without having to worry about completing a level or getting killed, there is also a freeplay mode where you can just discover to your heart's content. What with somewhere around 20,000 different items, it doesn't get boring.

All this being said, there is, inevitably, a par on how many objects you can physically bring into the world. It's this annoying little bar on the top screen which can sometimes be annoying and limiting but it only adds to the fun in level mode, even if it can disappoint you in freeplay mode.

While the gameplay is fun and challenging and levels often really make you think, as many others have said, the game doesn't really ever push you to use your full creativity so you'll probably never use 70% of the items in the game's library. There are too often easy and mundane ways of completing levels, and you won't find yourself summoning a lima bean to help you defeat a kraken. To be fair, you'll probably find yourself summoning a rope, a black hole, and a pegasus to get you through most of the levels.

That being said, there is a mode that you can access after having completed a level once where the game makes you replay that level three times, using completely different objects each time, which pushes you a little bit more, but the variety of different objects with similar and the same functions in the game still stops you from busting out a sitar.

One great feature of the game is the tutorial, which is detailed and sets you up with all the basic information you'll need to just bust out your imagination and quickly and easily get into the levels.

Quite possibly the game's biggest downfall is its controls. The game is mostly controlled with the touch screen, but the D-Pad is used to move the camera. This method of camera control works fine, but leave the camera with Maxwell off screen for about 2 seconds and then it automatically zips back to him. It can be frustrating. But the way you control Maxwell is quite possibly the worst part. You control the little guy with the touch screen, tapping places you want him to go, and while it's not like it's horrible, it usually doesn't work too well. All too often you'll tap somewhere on accident and he'll go dashing into a pool of lava from which you cannot escape in order to go where you've told him to go. Sometimes it's even necessary to put walls around him to he can't move, which shouldn't really be the case. That's another thing. The complete lack of artificial intelligence. Say you're rescuing some stranded person stuck atop a skinny little cliff and surrounded by bottomless pits. She sees you flying towards her on your trusty pegasus, rope in hand. Just because she wants to be close to her savior, she'll go ahead and mindlessly jump into that bottomless pit, killing herself and forcing you to start the level over again. The same goes for Maxwell. Not only that, but when Maxwell's in a crowded area, sometimes he'll just start spazzing out on you and fly around madly, somehow in the process beating up the kid you just saved and scaring away the carefully tamed unicorn you just summoned. It's not really major, but there's also no way to just calmly give something to another creature or person. Maxwell picks it up and can either throw it in the air and let it drop and possibly break at their feet or throw it at their face, often resulting in some pointless violence.

The graphics in the game are smooth and clear, with each object intimately detailed and often with its own animation. It's a side-scrolling game with a cartoon-ish feel, but it works incredibly well with the game's simple yet challenging concept.

The soundtrack in the game is diverse with almost 40 different lengthy songs, each following a similar, eerily techno theme, but they never really get annoying and all the sound effects are detailed and crisp.

Overall, Scribblenauts in freeplay mode is a good time-killer and it is a fun and challenging game in level mode. With a great tutorial, good graphics and sound, and a huge library of objects and levels to summon, it's tough to get bored, even once all the levels have been completed. The controls are really the only bad points in this almost glitch-free gaming experience. 8.9 out of 10 for me, for an almost killer DS game.

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