Scribblenauts is a game practically built for phones, and its absence on Android has left a conspicuous void in its library. At long last, 5th Cell has brought their innovative puzzler, albeit exclusively via the less-popular Amazon market. Nonetheless, the game isn’t exclusive to Kindle devices, and its long overdue arrival makes for a very welcome addition to the Android gaming landscape.
Scribblenauts debuted at E3 2009 with little of the fanfare and pomp that many other games at the show had, yet by the end of the week, the little DS game was seemingly all people could talk about. It was an unassuming little game with a simple but compelling hook: the power to create seemingly any noun (or at least thousands of them) in the English language. It’s an open door for a creative mind to solve problems by any means he can.
Scribblenauts Remix is a mash-up of the original and its sequel with with a high-res graphical facelift. If you’ve played the originals, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect: the gameplay enhancements from the second game, and 120 stages that include originals and greatest hits from the first two games. There are no new modes, only a pile of short puzzles that makes this a perfect match for the Cut the Rope or Angry Birds crowd.
The depth and versatility of Scibblenauts dictionary is staggering. There are thousands of words, which can get very specific, as well as adjectives that can be applied procedurally to anything. You can alter the size, mental state, temperature, color, or material using any number of adjectives. For example, you might create a “robotic parasaurolophus” or an “angry hippo.” These adjectives can sometimes be a bit literal – “ice skate” produced a frozen flatfish and “game boy” produced a playful child – but overall it gets things right with impressive accuracy.
In a way, Scribblenauts is a lot like playing a classic adventure game, except with a nearly unlimited inventory. In each stage, you’re placed with a simple challenge and given a short clue. There may be a person with a problem in need of a tool, or the puzzle might be navigation-based, like a gap that you need to help someone cross. Most of these scenarios only take a few seconds, but some might take a few minutes to work through. As time goes on, there are more clues to help nudge (or sometimes shove) you in the right direction.
This allows players to be as creative as they like, and often the most fun solution is not the obvious one. Almost every puzzle has multiple solutions, and some can be solved in a nearly infinite number of ways. Most of the time, anything that seems like it should work does. There are a few stages that can get strangely specific, however. One level asks you to describe a monster movie cast with adjectives, and will accept “haunted ghost,” but not “spooky ghost,” despite recognizing the latter’s term and even giving it a scary face. These moments can be incredibly frustrating, but they are very few and far between.
What is most disappointing about Scribblenauts, however, is just the untapped potential. There are simulation elements in the game that go largely unused; characters and creatures react to each other and experience different mood states, platform elements, and there is even some physics simulation, but most puzzles are of the basic lock-and-key sort. Although there is usually generous room to think laterally, there is seldom any need, and you often end up experimenting just for the fun of it. It’s unfortunate that 5th Cell hasn’t included any kind of level editor to let users make their own more ambitious puzzles.
Scribblenauts is as close to a sandbox adventure game as we’re ever likely to see, and at its best, it’s hilarious, creative, and amazingly open-ended. The generally low difficult makes it a perfect game to play with the kids, but adults will have fun as well, provided they’re still in touch with that silly part of them that wants to see how a “friendly purple tyrannosaurus” will react to a hostile army.
Is it Hardcore?
Scribblenauts Remix delivers a great – if shortened – adaptation of the DS game, and its an original and incredibly fun puzzler. Still, it feels like there’s a lot of untapped potential due to the simplistic level design.