Have you ever wondered what it might be like to watch a gorilla in a top hat fight off hordes of zombies with a ray gun? Or maybe how it would feel to ride a whale across the ocean only to take off in your fighter jet?
Imagine a game where you can literally write anything that comes to mind and it will appear on the screen before you. Better yet, the objects can be used, manipulated, and even interact with their environment! This is the idea behind Scibblenauts, an extremely innovative game that relies almost entirely on the user’s imagination.
Using the Nintendo DS touchscreen, you control an adventurous little boy named Maxwell by pointing to where you want him to move on the screen and clicking on objects that you want him to interact with. The pivotal part of the game activates when you click on the notebook in the top right-hand corner of the touch screen. This provides the user with a keyboard where they can type any of 22802 words that will spring to life (the words cannot be proper names or copyrighted material among other things).
The gameplay consists of two kinds of levels: puzzle levels and action levels. In both types, the player is required to find a creative way to reach a “starite” which acts as the finish line for each level. Let’s say that the game asks you to help a boy break a piñata. You could create a baseball bat and hand it to him, you could create a football and knock the piñata down, or you could write flamethrower and burn the entire thing down. Puzzle levels involve a little more thinking than the action levels, which more often than not involve fighting or racing someone or something else.
When I first picked the game up, I thought it would be way too easy, seeing as I could literally create
anything that I wanted to, but that proved to be untrue. The puzzles definitely take some commitment and creative thinking, and some of the action levels can be a huge pain.
Although it is fun to let your imagination run wild, the game has some serious control issues. The DS touchscreen ends up being very finicky, sometimes causing Maxwell to jump off of cliffs, fall out of vehicles, and abandon items at less than convenient times. Another thing that has frustrated me about the game is the inability to create items on a desirable scale. For example, I’m sick of watching my tiny bridges fall through the cracks and having to build solutions with short walls and ladders. Maybe this just forces the user to be more creative with their thought process, but reaching high places gets really annoying.
The game also contains a level builder mode which allows users to create their own missions that can be shared with friends, but clearly the player is much more limited in the level capacity than the designers were.
Scribblenauts is a great concept and a great step forward for the gaming industry, but the idea still has to be polished. I love the immagination and interactivity behind this game, but the control issues are too severe to overlook.
I give this game an 8/10