There are very few games in which the biggest obstacle that stands between you and success is the limitation of your own imagination. In Scribblenauts, you have access to thousands of objects that can be summoned at any point using the in-game keyboard, and your goal is to push the boundaries of your creativity and vocabulary to solve the puzzles in whatever fanciful way you dream up. There are an untold number items, such as musical instruments, vehicles, prehistoric animals, cooking utensils, and deities at your disposal, and placing all these disparate pieces onscreen at one time and seeing how they behave and react to one another is outrageously fun. However, as entertaining as it may be to chase a monocle-wearing walrus across the desert on the back of the Loch Ness Monster, the crazy dynamics are not without problems. Many levels don't force you to push the boundaries of your creativity, level objectives are sometimes unclear, and the finicky controls will lead to a number of unceremonious deaths. But the overwhelming joy of this innovative puzzle game is able to overcome those issues, providing a jubilant experience that is sure to delight.
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Your goal in Scribblenauts is to collect the hidden starites in each of the game's 200-plus levels. The game is broken up into two distinct level types, action and puzzle. On the surface, the action levels look like a typical platforming stage. The hero Maxwell starts at one side of the level, the starite is located at the other end, and you must traverse the environment--crossing pools of lava, battling prehistoric beasts, avoiding hordes of zombies, and so forth--to grab your reward. You can conjure an object at any time, and trying to figure out the most efficient, or bizarre, way to reach the end is goofy fun. The puzzle levels are even better. Here, a question is posed and you must figure out which tools you need to use in order to answer it. For example, a corpse lies on the floor with four witnesses milling about, and you must figure out which of them is the murderer. Puzzles such as these require thought to complete. Taxing your brain for the often outrageous solutions is a blast, and trying to top your own idea with something even more fantastic is addictive and often hilarious.
The best part of Scribblenauts is using the massive dictionary to come up with all sorts of wacky ideas. Sure, you could ride a horse from one side of the screen to the other, but why settle for something so mundane? If you have a saddle and a mind-control device handy, you can summon Cthulhu to be your noble steed. When a herd of dinosaurs are bumming you out, you can call forth a superhero to put them in their place, infantilize them with a shrink ray, or just drop a meteor from the sky to trigger a convenient extinction-level event. This creativity is present in the many puzzles as well. In one level, you must transport three deceased criminals from the purgatory in which they currently reside to the pearly gates of heaven. You could construct a bridge between the two eternal planes, but why go through that trouble when an all-forgiving god will absolve them of their sins and transport them to the promised land?
The problem is, Scribblenauts doesn't always force your right brain to work very hard. There are definitely challenging puzzles, but for a lot of the levels, you can use a handful of tried-and-true methods to breeze to the end. There isn't a compelling reason to use something other than wings to reach out-of-the-way places, and you can quickly dispose of any enemy in your path with a vicious animal or two, so it's easy to fall into the trap of passing levels as quickly as possible, without taking advantage of the impressive resources at your disposal. There are a number of levels that require careful thought to complete, but many stages in Scribblenauts are so open-ended that you can use a huge variety of methods to pass them. This is great if you want to scratch your creative itch, but for those who just want to see the next level as quickly as possible, the puzzles are often so easy that there is little standing in your path to victory.