E3 2009: The Five: Scribblenauts
The 10-Cent Tour: Scribblenauts is one of those do-it-yourself-style Nintendo DS games from the folks at 5TH Cell. (They also made Drawn to Life and Lock's Quest.) When John Teti and I stopped by the Warner Bros. booth at E3, we asked one of the PR people to recommend a game for us to look at -- you know, beyond the obvious ones. She brought us to Scribblenauts. And we were both glad she did.
1. The game celebrates creativity and inventiveness by allowing you to problem-solve by typing in the names of objects that can help you reach the Starites, the glowing, sparkling stars that are usually positioned at a point that initially appears to be unreachable. Typing, or rather, using the touch-screen to type out the words of the objects you want to conjure -- as an act in a videogame -- is not fun. But reaching those Starites? That's surprisingly satisfying.
2. Like Braid or Puzzle Farter, the early levels of Scribblenauts are almost absurdly easy. For example, you find a tree standing between you and the Starite. Type in the word "axe"; poof, an axe appears; you chop down the tree; and voil?, you've got your Starite. But the difficulty level ramps up quickly, evolving from the brainless to the brain-straining.
3. The game is structured almost exactly like those in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, and the developers promise the final version of the game will feature a sophisticated level creator. Making your own levels, then transferring them to your fellow DS owners via Wi-Fi trading, could potentially give the game an infinite amount of value.
4. Later, more complex levels limit the number of objects you can conjure. Translation: You only get three objects, so that hammer, trampoline and axe? They had better be the right tools to grab that Starite.
5. We know you are thinking this, so I'll go ahead and say it: The game prohibits any X-rated talk. Typing in the word "penis" or "fart" -- two of the greatest words in the English language, mind you -- might delight you on a personal level, but it will get you nowhere in the context of the game. Keep your dirty mind to yourself, thank you.
The Crispy Forecast: Some cloud cover, slight chance of redundancy. Both Teti and I were impressed with Scribblenauts. Some of that can, of course, be attributed to the fact that we both looked at the game with the lowest expectations possible. (Unlike God of War III or Heavy Rain.) But this looks like something I'd enjoy the crap out of on a bicoastal flight. One more thing: This would be great on the iPhone. I'm just saying.
This preview was based on a hands-on demo of the game at E3 2009.
Check out more previews from E3: