Scribblenauts Hands-On Impressions

Creativity is your primary weapon in this charming platformer from the team behind Drawn to Life.

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The Nintendo DS is rife with platforming games, but not a single one is like Scribblenauts. In this game, you guide a cute kid named Maxwell throughout a world, which consists of 220 increasingly difficult levels. The one common theme that draws all of these levels together is the way that you conquer the obstacles that lie before you: think of a solution, type it out on the touch screen, and that object will appear before you, ready to be used. With tens of thousands of objects in the game, it's awfully hard to think of something that the game doesn't have in it (provided you're not thinking of such an abstract concept as communism).

Who's Making This Game: Scribblenauts is being developed by 5th Cell, a studio with a history of charming and creativity-driven DS games. The company most recently brought us Lock's Quest, but before that it made Drawn to Life, a platformer in which you actually drew your main character. So it's a team with a good track record for taking interesting ideas for how to use the DS touch screen and putting them into action.

What the Game Looks Like: It's 2D platformer with a rough, hand-drawn art style, but a style that's also cute and appealing at the same time. It's quite similar to the look of Drawn to Life. The objects that you call into the world aren't terribly detailed, but with the sheer number of them stored in the system, that's entirely understandable.

What There Is to Do: The game is split into traditional platforming levels and smaller, more deliberate puzzles. In the puzzles, you're given a quandary and told to find a solution by using objects that you think of on your own. One example that we saw put the player on one side of a small island, and a star (your goal) on the other side beyond a tall wall. The easiest solution is to write the word jetpack, have it appear, pick it up, and attach it to Maxwell and let him fly over the wall. But if you want to get more creative, you can spawn a dolphin into the water, a diving helmet for Maxwell, and ride the friendly dolphin under the island to the other side.

The platforming levels are more traditional 2D, run-and-jump fare. You might encounter a wall too high for Maxwell to leap over, so a quick solution would be to spawn a ladder and climb it. If you reach a gap too wide to leap across, you can simply spawn a plank of wood to cover it up. These sound easy, but some of the later levels that we saw were pretty nasty. The difficulty definitely ramps up as the game goes on. At one point, we encountered a level with deadly sharks in the water between you and your goal. It took us a few tries to figure out the best solution as we continued to get eaten over and over, before realizing those same dolphins that we used earlier would actually fight the sharks on our behalf. That, or you could just drop a toaster in the water and electrocute them to death.

Adding more replay value is the fact that you can return to all of the levels that you've beaten to edit them with the level-editing tool, and replay them in an advanced difficulty mode that remembers which objects you used last time and prohibits you from using them again.

How the Game Is Played: Every bit of movement is done with the touch screen. You tap where you want Maxwell to go, and he'll automatically jump over small obstacles and gaps. You punch in letters with the stylus to write objects, and then drag and drop them wherever you want them to go. In fact, the only buttons that you use are on the directional pad, which is for moving the camera to scope out terrain that you haven't reached yet.

What They Say: The official Web site asks, "What if anything you could think of could be used to help you in a video game?"

What We Say: Well, it obviously doesn't have everything you can think of, but it's sure close. All sorts of things from shark repellent to the specter of death are in there for you to type up, call into the world, and use for solving puzzles and traversing over 2D platforming environments. We really enjoyed what we played of Scribblenauts. You can expect to see more on the game in the very near future.

Discussion

87 comments
Bog101
Bog101

I dunno. Looks like a cool puzzler but too cutesy

HaNZI_Mgo
HaNZI_Mgo

i belive this will be friggin awesome

I_am_theOpus
I_am_theOpus

This sounds really great, if the gameplay works as promised.

Silent_Raven92
Silent_Raven92

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ab5mch
ab5mch

Looks like it'll be a laugh, I wanna get it

somomom
somomom

You can also create your own levels and exchange them via wi-fi. The game knows tens of thousands of words, meaning more than just 10,000. Nothing copyrighted or vulgar can be spawned in game. However popular internet phrases like "keyboard cat" have special easter eggs. Despite the rapidly growing hype of this game, this could either be seriously overrated and repetitive or the biggest gaming sensation to ever hit the DS.

starduke
starduke

Sounds like a cool game. Kind of like an old choose your own adventure game, like, well, Adventure, except the items you use come from your imagination and the 10,000 words the game knows. So, I guess you could possibly use a pogo stick to jump over gaps. I want to see what would happen if I typed in UFO, so I could hitch a ride past the sharks.

BlazeShaman
BlazeShaman

THis sounds like a GREAT GAME! I can't wait to try to complete the easiest levels in the most complicated way imaginable!!!!!

dr-snowman
dr-snowman

this game has over 10,000 words that register so almost anything can work it comes down to common sense, sorta

hitomo
hitomo

well, controlling a game by writing (or drawing letters) isnt exactly the thihng I seek while playing a game ... and oh, ladder, ball and beaver are three words, seems pretty limited to me :P ... would women, condome or beer also work .... no, because its limited only by the imagination of the devs... greetz

Jai614
Jai614

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

gedbyz
gedbyz

I could just see myself coming up with a bunch of horrible combinations of things. It is probably best that i do not have a DS, although i would get one for this game.

eldin4444
eldin4444

oh boy oh boy, I fell like a little kid right now I so want this game, I'll try to spawn god XD

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

Spawn "Toilet" and "Laxatives"! Wonder what will happen?

SucculentSteak
SucculentSteak

Bunch of sharks in my way, hhhmmmmm. Spawn: Chuck Norris!

lavawolf
lavawolf

im going to buy the game :) i've seen trailers and it looks fun

eYesEEDeaDppL
eYesEEDeaDppL

I can draw anything? Hmmmm...*band-aid solutions* XD This tops Metroid: Other M as my most wanted game.

mayceV
mayceV

time to take the ds out of the old drawer

c_359
c_359

Redonkulos D is right, they are putting out very high expectations for it, and if there is even one glitch or flaw this games credit could go down the drain

magicaltrevor11
magicaltrevor11

This could entertain me forever there are infinite possibilities to how you can solve stuff

Redonkulous_D
Redonkulous_D

"Hope the hype doesn't kill this game before it's out. People are going to expect the moon, and throw a tantrum if they don't get it." The moon's in the game. If you spawn a villain and he see's it, he turns into a warewolf :P

Marionerd
Marionerd

My DStt will never get this game. I have to support genius game-makers! =)

arun_pullat
arun_pullat

Hope the hype doesn't kill this game before it's out. People are going to expect the moon, and throw a tantrum if they don't get it.

AgentPix
AgentPix

oh yeah, try typing in portal once, see what you get XD

AgentPix
AgentPix

oh my gosh... i cant wait for this game... im going to use the most complex and crazy solotions to the most simple levels.. and all the other ones too! this is a game worth waiting in line for the day it releases!

amo_lang123
amo_lang123

man i really need this now, as i just found out it will have a level editor... just got to fix my ds now...

hydn631
hydn631

im imagining maxwell and M60 :P

neevle
neevle

does it have multiplayer?

nate1222
nate1222

Well, it looks like my new DSi (yes, I'm bragging that I own DSi) will get a cool knew goodie.

Wikipedian
Wikipedian

First thing i'll type in: Bob Dylan

purple_pride99
purple_pride99

My goal when I play this game will be to never use any easy solves, I want to get creative as possible to solve the levels. Not just create a ladder or jetpack to get places.

purple_pride99
purple_pride99

This game looks so amazing, I can't even explain how curious I am and how bad I want to get my hands on this game lol. I'll be getting this the day it releasesl.

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

It looks absolutely incredible. Saw a video of one of the developers playing it. As soon as he spawned Cthulhu, I was in love. If anything convinces me to buy a DS, it'll probably be this.

Screamteam411
Screamteam411

This game is definitely one of the best things to come out of e3 this year. I can't wait for it to come out. This looks like one of the few games that I HAVE to play the day it comes out.

dunnowhathuh
dunnowhathuh

Hmm, if duct tape can solve anything then here's surely the place to try it out.

amo_lang123
amo_lang123

i would like this game, but my ds has a broken screen (on top), so i won't get this unless you don't really need the top screen...

dr-snowman
dr-snowman

the first game i buy since gta: chinatown wars

mAD_ADaption
mAD_ADaption

It's about time somebody made a game like this! I could have used this years ago playing lemmings. I predict 9.0s all around.

alittletoohappy
alittletoohappy

This makes me happy I have a DS. Most of the DS games I've bought (which is not many) have been fairly disappointing by the potential of DS. But this looks amazing.

E3Abe09
E3Abe09

What if you typed in"Bruce Lee" you would probably get beat up (^_^)

Redonkulous_D
Redonkulous_D

If you spawn a full moon, the scene changes from day to night. If you spawn a villain, and he see's the full moon, he turns into a warewolf. If you spawn a crowbar, you dress up as Gordan Freeman(glasses, orange HEV suit, and crowbar) This game's the embodiment of win...

blankshore
blankshore

If you type in "Chuck Norris" you get slapped in the face for using such a lame and over-used joke.