Scribblenauts

Review

posted 1/16/2010 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: DS
Things go from bad to worse when you create one of the many vehicles your character can use.  I'm sure piloting a helicopter in real life is no easy task, but doing it in Scribblenauts is next to impossible.  It's far too easy to accidentally click on the vehicle and eject yourself at the wrong time.  And don't even get me started on all of the times my vehicle flipped over or glitched out.  It's enough to make you not want to use some of the game's words, but you'll need to in order to actually beat the game.  Had the developers had the foresight to simply move the character's control to the D-pad none of this would have been an issue, however, that's not what they did and gamers are now forced to deal with one of the worst control set-ups of the year.

Aside from the disastrous controls, the game has a unique style that works well on the underpowered Nintendo DS.  Scribblenauts look combines the cartoony look of cel-shaded graphics with the 2D plain, giving gamers a flat (albeit artistic) look.  You will never be blown away with how the game looks, but it's never about the visual fidelity.  Instead you are excited by the little things, like what a particular object may look like or how one similar item my compare to another.  Even if this game was on a more powerful console, I would hope that the artistic style would be retained.

Unfortunately, I spent a lot of my time wanting the game to be on a different system.  As I sat there constantly dying because of the poor control scheme, I wondered if I might have a better time on a larger screen.  Even if they didn't change a thing for a PC port, the larger screen and more precise mouse controls would do this game a lot of good.  Simply put, the game is held back by the limitations of the Nintendo DS touch screen.

If you can get past the annoying control scheme, you'll find that Scribblenauts offers an amazing concept that almost matches its potential.  This installment feels more like an experiment; a proof of concept, if you will.  With a little more structure and a better control scheme this could be one of the very best games around.  Hopefully the game will sell enough to warrant a second game that fixes all of these problems, because THAT would be a great game to own.  This, on the other hand, is a fun game that ultimately misses its mark.


B-
The freedom offered to you in Scribblenauts is both intoxicating and overwhelming. Never before has a game given you this much control over solving the 200+ puzzles. Unfortunately it's a nasty control scheme that ultimately brings it back down to Earth. With some tweaking and structure Scribblenauts could have been one of the best games of the year. As it is, it's merely adequate.


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