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5 Reviews

Scribblenauts

The pen is mightier than the sword, but is a gun-toting nun mightier than the pen?

Genius. Work of art. Crowning glory. Just three terms you can magic up from Scribblenauts' 10,000-word vocabulary. Scribble them into your virtual notebook and so they appear: Einstein, a portrait and a halo, er, thing. Twenty seconds later Einstein is trying to use the portrait to fight off a tiger wearing a top hat. This kind of thing happens an awful lot in Scribblenauts.

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For months, the depth of Scribblenauts' dictionary has hogged the limelight. Short version: you'd have to be a Stephen Fry-alike to outwit it. But as fun as it is to glue a cactus to a nun (and it is fun) there has to be some motivation behind the madness. In taming their 10,000 objects, 5th Cell have found silliness, brilliance and a tiny dollop of frustration.

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Levels are divided into two types, action and puzzle. The former requires you to get to the star by any means possible and the latter asks you to satisfy cryptic criteria. As a showcase for the 'write anything, solve everything' slogan, the puzzling half really puts the dictionary to the test.

Asked to spruce up a wedding celebration, the obvious choice would be to toss confetti into the mix. Easy. But why stop at the obvious? Tie a length of rope to their car, add a can on the end and they can drive off in true 'just married' style. Alternatively, plop a velociraptor on the guests and prepare for a swift restart.

Earning a platinum medal will take three successive solutions without any object repetition. Luring a sheep back to his flock with grassy treats is easy, but by your second turn you're strapping helium balloons to his back and yanking him along on a leash. The third turn? Propelling him home with the threat of a lion brandishing a jar of mint sauce.

Pulling a helium-lifted lamb on a dog leash? This is Scribblenauts at its best - not just thinking outside the box, but taking the box and nailing a clown to it. In a gaming landscape full of grizzled space marines, Nazis and zombies (and sometimes Nazi zombies), to see such wanton silliness championed is rousing stuff. Forget breaths of fresh air, this is like time in a wind tunnel.

But it comes with a few warnings. Action levels, one half of an admittedly massive package, do blend into one another. Focused on getting Maxwell from A to B, solutions revolve around items that help navigation and the almighty dictionary begins to shrink. Ladders, jetpacks, guns, scuba gear, rope - creative potential bows to practical necessity.

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The more Maxwell moves, the more you fall out with the stylus. Mapping Maxwell and object interaction to stylus taps seems streamlined, but when dealing with tiny objects - gluing a grenade to an ant, for example - it's easy to miss and see Maxwell sprint through whatever death pits and deadly creatures might lie in the way.

With 10,000 objects at the stylus' beck and call, would it have been too much to plonk Maxwell on D-pad controls? And considering the size of later levels, the camera's constant desire to scroll back over to him had us snapping the stylus in rage. Some levels are designed to be completed from afar - working out how to get objects to come to Maxwell - shame no one told the camera designer.
So yes, building a ramp out of babies and flatscreen TVs is harder than it should be, but the point remains: you can build a ramp out of babies and flatscreen TVs.

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