Scribblenauts – Second review

The Nintendo DS has become the breeding ground for not only the usual suspects like RPG’s, turn-based strategy games, and others of classic genres. However, there are times when innovation infects it like a love possesses a man to do crazy things. Such games would take advantage of the touchscreen, which is something its rival, the PSP, does not have. While underpowered compared to the PSP, it does have more possibilities in terms of interactivity. Such is the advantage of the platform presented by the Nintendo DS in gaming.

Scribblenauts was released after a period of aggressive marketing, getting tons of fans anticipating its promise. An emergent gameplay with an interesting premise involving the power to summon almost anything gives this game its appeal. This is a puzzle game that blows crosswords out of the water. Whenever you feel like video games still have limitations, turn towards the emergent genre and think of the possibilities – something that Scribblenauts definitely aims to fulfill.

The title screen is definitely the most awesome part of the game. You get to control your character and summon ojects and figures right there, making experimentation quite a treat. As you accomplish more, you unlock more maps in the title screen so you can test your theories in different kinds of environment. This has got to be one of the best ideas created for the DS. The levels themselves are not pushovers either, being divided to puzzle and action categories. You also get accomplishments whenever you finish a level three more times without using the same objects. This definitely spurs on your need to be creative in every part of the game.

But Scribblenauts turns out to be one of the greatest disappointments this year. Its potential was compromised due to its poor execution. The controls are shoddy, the physics is annoying, and the variety is just for show. You will be compelled to use the same objects in every scenario, despite the encouragement by the game to use different objects in different ways. The camera also resets everytime you try to keep it at one spot other than showing your character, making the placement of summoned objects more challenging. Objects feel the same in terms of their weight and feel as light objects feel similar to bulldozers and dinosaurs, making the idea of being able to squash people with heavy objects, for example, totally impossible in-game.

Also, the game does not recognize abstractions, despite its wide range of objects and recognizing their uses. For example, in one of the first levels, there is a goalkeeper and a soccer goal and your objective is to “score”. You may throw a ball towards the goal to score, but not score with a ball shot in a summoned basketball ring. It is still scoring, just as mentioned in your objective, but it will only recognize the soccer goal as the objective. The game doesn’t let you be as creative as you can be like promised in its pre-release marketing.

Sadly, Scribblenauts soon gets old, even with the awesomeness of being able to summon Cthulu from the H.P. Lovecraft ethos. You can do a lot of cool stuff, but not nearly enough. Perhaps it could have been better, but that is how it is released. If you can get used to the controls and physics, then you may be able to make the most of it. However, most people would just drift to a different game altogether.

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