Scribblenauts (NDS)


Review: Scribblenauts


Puzzle, Platforming, Sandbox

Is this an Art Attack?




Scribblenauts is a puzzle platformer, with the goal of each level is to collect the “starite”. The big difference with this is its very open ended because of the main mechanic it utilises. This being the idea that you can conjure up nearly anything you want, by typing it in using the touch screen then placing it wherever you want.

I have to admit to being very interested in the concept of this game when I first saw read articles about it and seeing videos of it in action. The art style is colourful and everything can be seen clearly on the screen. The intentionally flat and cartoonish style lead to a lot of very good fan art for the game using existing copyrighted characters, which looked very interesting,


It's not just Bon Jovi who rides a steel horse.

The game-play is split up into 2 types, the first being the puzzle levels. These can be as simple giving someone something they need to as complicated as making pseudo Rube Goldberg devices. These puzzle levels tend to be good fun and it can be challenging to figure out how exactly you can complete each of the levels.

The second type of level are the more action orientated levels. Unfortunately these really let the game down, mostly because of the terrible controls. Instead of having direct control of your character you have to tap on the screen to where you want him to go. This ends up being as useful as a johnny machine in the Vatican. Your character will automatically jump over gaps and most things that block his way. So you end up struggling when you want him to actually jump down a hole.

Another problem with these levels is there is less of a reward for ingenuity. So you find yourself using the same tools repeatedly. Even if you know what you are attempting to do the game still fucks you over with its horrible physics. Its all too simple for your character knock over a supposedly heavy boulder or steel beam into a chasm screwing up what you’re attempting to do.


It's just like that bit in Wolverine... just not as shit.

You’ll notice that I use the word attempting a lot when explaining this game. That’s simply because so much of it is trial and error. Whilst there’s no penalty for retrying a level multiple times, you will end up having to retry. A lot! One of the levels involves you trying to get a sheep over an area of water. So naturally the first thing you think of is to use a bridge, but the bridge isn’t big enough. So you go for a boat only to find the boat is too big and you can’t get the sheep to enter it anyway. In the end I ended up flying over the water on Pegasus, tying a rope to the sheep and flying it back across.

That’s a good example of how something that should be very simple suddenly becomes very obtuse because of the limits of the game. Obviously this adds a level of challenge to the game which isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately it does mean you sometimes have to be very specific with what you want. Often this means you have to preface words with large or huge to get what you want. This leads onto another gripe of mine is that sometimes you will input something and either it will give you options as to what you want. Quite often these options are nothing like the object needed, they just are spelled slightly similarly. It will also spawn something automatically which isn’t what you wanted.



Secondary Review

If we marked games purely on ambition Scribblenauts would be a solid gold 10/10 but with a game as hampered as this with a backwards control scheme and slipshod psychics engine we’re talking less gold and more pewter.

Sure it can be great fun in a coffee table game sort of way when you ignore the pre-designed levels and just dick around staging fights between pirates and ninjas or summoning Chtulhu to eat a LOLcat  but if you only limit yourself to the action and puzzle sections don’t be surprised if you quickly tire of the grind of having to transfigure the games lexicon to discover the differences between recycled graphics and petty adjective choices.

Like I said tons of ambition that’s sadly too much weight for the game’s frail engine to support.

Secondary Score: 6/10

Another one of the limits to the amount of objects in the game means that quite often different words spawn exactly the same thing. For example Rapper, is exactly the same as DJ or MC. Another one I find very strange is that whilst there’s a vast array of varying weapons you can’t summon anything that’s drugs or alcohol related. So whilst you can give your character a minigun, he can’t have a bottle of beer or a pipe. This was a bit of a shame since I was mucking about and I thought a cigar would have looked good with the monocle and top hat I decked out a T-rex in.

Which very neatly brings me to my next point. The most fun I had with this game was conjuring up strange and wonderful stuff on the opening title screen of the game. This brought about the aforementioned monocled, top hat wearing dinosaur fighting Cthulu. Cthulu won by the way, though he lost in the next round to a Kraken. If only they had spent more time working on the controls and physics of this game. Rather than adding stupid memes like Rickroll or longcat into the game then they would have had a fun polished title. Instead of this broken, buggy monstrosity.

What initially starts out as fun, soon becomes frustrating. I can’t count the amount of times instead of my character shooting something or throwing it at what he’s supposed to he has dropped it into water or lava, making it irretrievable. If they’d given the game standard platforming controls where you took direct control of the character as well as the ability to imagine objects from the ether then this game would have been great. Unfortunately this game ends up only being fun for a short time before I put it down due to frustration.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆


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