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Scribblenauts is a puzzle game you solve by typing words to create objects. Maybe you need a ladder to climb a tree or a hose to fill a pool, you simply type the words with the stylus to make them magically appear. Thousands of objects are packed into this intriguing Nintendo DS game that re-writes the puzzle game genre with a nod to riddles and retro text adventures.
You may remember the old text adventures where you typed in words to progress. Scribblenauts takes the puzzle solving side of these games but massively expands the dictionary so almost every word you can think of is catered for. Each of these objects then interacts with each other and the environment to let the player decide how they solve each problem.
It's a puzzle game that revels in the player's ability to invent their own solutions. By offering such a vast array of items Scribblenauts enables players use their imagination to solve each problem in a number of different ways. On the diminutive Nintendo DS, this is perhaps one of the most open and expansive video games seen so far.
The game matches these puzzling credentials with simplistic hand drawn graphics that offer the flexibility and clarity needed to manipulate the different objects you have conjured up from the dictionary. Simply drag one object to another to get them to interact. The result is determined by the properties of the items in play. A balloon may make a brick hover in the air, or sticky tape may attach two objects together the viable options are almost infinite.
With 220 levels spread over 10 regions there is plenty to keep puzzle fans happy here. Each level also warrants being replayed to complete with as few items as possible. A golf-like par system is applied to each level, indicating how many items a player may need to complete the puzzle. Players are also awarded certain 'merits' for completing levels under certain criteria - such as not using any weapon-like objects.
These central puzzle levels are complemented by action levels. These take the game in a platforming direction and feature the usual switches, traps and jumps. Although not as unusual as the rest of the game this offers more variety and a break from the head scratching puzzles.
The first time I played Scribblenauts I was a little sceptical of the idea. I couldn't believe this small cartridge could really contain most of the objects my imagination could dream up. But putting this to the test with a few words, 'fire', 'paracetamol' and 'jelly' I was surprised how well it coped. In fact it became a game in its own right, me and my friends trying to think up words Scribblenauts didn't know. I'd get texts in the middle of the night with suggestions from my over eager gamer friends. And more often than not Scribblenauts had the measure of us.
The sheer amount of content squeezed into this one inch cartridge is a testament to the value of the DS console to developers. But more than the technical achievement, it's the inventive answers to puzzles you come away with. Play this with your friends and family and you'll be swapping tips and telling what you used to solve puzzles for months to come.
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