Genre: Kids Developer: 5th Cell Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment Classification: PG Release Date: 30th Sep 2009 Platforms:
Login to submit your review score
The video game industry used to be all about innovation. Developers strove to be as creative as possible, doing everything they could to create new and exciting games that would revolutionise the market. Those days are long gone however, with the majority of games merely going with the formula they know works. Video games make a lot of money, so it is easier to sell a game that has already been successful than to develop something new and possibly fail.
Innovation only succeeds if the gameplay elements introduced are good. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Wii, where innovation was the name of the game until it was realised that the games, while innovative, were unwieldy and frustrating. Fortunately for Scribblenauts, the gameplay is great, although the controls can be iffy at times.
The game follows the exploits of Maxwell - a young boy in a rooster hat I never cared enough to pay attention to the story behind. It's not that Maxwell isn't an endearing protagonist - it's just that Maxwell's hat/origin/reasons for collecting Starite aren't really a necessary factor to you having fun with Scribblenauts. As if to emphasise this, you can change Maxwell into different characters and costumes any time you like with seemingly zero effect on the gameplay - Max is just the tool you use to scribble.
Well, the actual tool you use is the stylus. The camera is controlled with either the d-pad (or the keypad if you are left-handed), but everything else is pure stylus. After creating an object (by tapping it's name into the touch screen keyboard) you simply touch and drag it where you want. Pointing at a particular place with no object selected will move Max to that spot. Tapping on an object will have Max "action" it - tap on a baseball and he'll pick it up and, with the ball in hand tapping on a crocodile will throw the ball at the crocodile. In some situations there will be more than one action - this will bring up a menu for you to choose from.
The stylus creates its own problems however. Moving Max can be a major pain at times - creating a Lion and accidentally clicking on the empty space next to the Lion instead of grabbing the beast is a mistake I made more than once. Placing objects in the correct place can be a nightmare when you find yourself rushing to complete objectives in time sensitive challenges and the game takes on an artificially higher level of difficulty.
One level, where you have to catch a star before it falls onto spikes and restarts the level, was particularly frustrating thanks to the touchpad controls. Strapping on some wings and catching the star in a net - solving the puzzle portion - was relatively easy. Trying my damnedest to get Max to fly straight up instead of into the spikes was an exercise in pointless frustration. I can't put the blame entirely on the game however, I'm sure others have figured out ways to get the star without having to fly into spikes at all.
You'll find yourself persevering despite these issues thanks to the game's very quirky sense of humour - instilled not only in the
challenges the game puts you through, but in the interactions and interpretations of the words you type into the game's massive dictionary. Instead of a Tony Stark/Starship Troopers style "Power Suit" you can marvel at your brand new "Eighties guy" power suit and tie. What do you use to get rid of a pesky shark? Shark repellent, of course!
The only thing holding back Scribblenauts is the DS. The reliance on the touchscreen hampers what would otherwise be the best new games franchise this year. If the game were on the Wii (keeping the target audience in mind) it would be easy to see Maxwell being controlled with the Nunchuk while you dragged and dropped objects with the Wiimote. More system power would even allow something like object snapping - making the game that much easier again. Scribblenauts is still a great game, and a must have for any DS owner looking for a new game - it oozes personality and its 220 levels plus free roaming Sandbox mode provide hours of entertainment.