When I first started reading about Scribblenauts back in 2009 I wanted to play it so bad. The Nintendo DS was still high-tech stuff back then. A game that could present a drawing of nearly any word you typed on the screen? That was just mind-blowing. As much as I lusted after the game, however, I never quite got around to getting a DS, and my interest eventually waned.
The LiveJournal entry has a point: Because I’ve never played the original title I have no basis of comparison when talking about Scribblenauts Remix for Android. I’m pretty sure I have a good grasp on what’s going on here — at least good enough of one to pass an opinion on it — but you can never be sure you’re doing things exactly right in a sandboxy game like this. As such, please show mercy on any dumb or otherwise newbish comments made during the course of the review. I’m still totally happy to hear your praise, of course.
A Bizarre Premise
Each level in Scribblenauts Remix presents you with a basic problem to solve: Get the man across the water. Distract the hungry bear. Give the nasty exposed corpse a proper burial (no, seriously). If it sounds weird, that’s because it is. But it’s also a lot of fun. As the town’s resident problem solver/demigod, you’re able to perform your strange duties in pretty much any manner you choose. How? Type literally almost anything you can think of in a small prompt and voila, it appears in front of you. Need to move a hungry dinosaur out of your path? You can type in “bazooka” to blow him up, “meat” to lure him away, or “friendly T-Rex” to summon your own dinosaur and engage your foe in battle. Heck, you can type in “bulldozer” and bury him if you want to handle things that way. The beauty of this game is all in the solution itself, not the result.
The game takes custom commands as well thanks to a surprisingly intelligent adjective system. Typing “winged car,” for example, would give you a — wait for it — car with wings, while “scary pumpkin” would net you a sweet jack-o-lantern complete with a scowling face. One adjective-based challenge had me choosing vehicle types and colors for prospective clients; when a hippie approached my little auto shop, I was able to summon a tie-dye bicycle with little fuss, and that was one of the least crazy true examples I can think of. I won’t bore you with tales of my video game exploits, but I will say riding a floating velociraptor while donning a high-fashion, hot-pink top hat is every bit as cool (and fun) as it sounds.
Even Stranger Requests
After hours of gameplay I still don’t fully understand the people inhabiting Scribblenauts Remix’s world. In fact, I’d wager that fully 90% of their problems would require a lot less effort if they just did things themselves. One lady needed my help to clean up a puddle of water and pick up a banana peel in her apartment. A set of stepbrothers needed my help to become friends — a problem I solved by summoning a football and putting it right in their lazy little hands. If anything, the residents are a little dependent on the omnipotent man at their beck and call. What happens when he takes a vacation or doesn’t feel like helping with whatever menial task the simpletons in his hometown have for him?
While some of these quests are quite imaginative — and, more importantly, open to any number of creative solutions — I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing a fancified word-search game with others. Deciding on a tool, then using it to accomplish your means is a lot of fun. Scrambling to think of enough words related to an arbitrary topic like “government” or “horror movies” is not. Even worse, developer Warner Bros has an obvious penchant for placing multiple boring or otherwise bad levels in a row throughout each of the 10-level chapters. These problems, combined with the occasional confusing puzzle (see below) would have been an even bigger gripe if I had to play the levels in a straight line… fortunately, you can almost always skip ahead a level or two if you get really caught on something.
Imperfect but Impressive Logic
There were more than a few occasions where the game and I had the same result in mind but couldn’t find the right words to communicate with each other. This generally wasn’t my fault. The game’s hint system tends to be vague (and in some cases, outright wrong) in a really frustrating tip-of-the-tongue way. Most of the time this was due to a very specific completion requirement — the “bury the corpse” mission comes to mind — but sometimes the game could be outright dumb with what it would accept and what it wouldn’t. This didn’t break the game for me by any means, but it was frequent enough to be annoying. If you don’t have a raging manchild’s temper this may not be a problem for you.
Great for a Buck
I don’t know what the OG Scribblenauts game cost when it launched. Whatever the price was, I’m sure it wasn‘t a dollar. This one is, and it’s worth every bit of that buck if you never accomplish a single mission in the story mode. It features one of the most creative titles I’ve seen to date, and the hilarious (and sometimes jaw-dropping) accuracy of the things you summon is a sight to behold. It’s a little bit light on the game aspects, sure, but the sandbox elements more than make up for it. Summon yourself up a dollar and check it out.