Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Spring 2010 Video Games
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $29.99
Gaming System: Nintendo DS
Few games spark the imagination like Scribblenauts on Nintendo DS.

Scribblenauts is a series of short puzzles where the player helps the hero, Maxwell, complete challenges to earn a Starlite. In Puzzle Mode, the challenges are more of the real-world variety, giving characters what they need to complete the task at hand. For instance, the player must reunite a girl with her kitten on the roof or get past the monsters to save the wizard from the cage. In Action Mode, the player helps Maxwell navigate to the Starlite that is visible on screen.

In each level, the player controls Maxwell by directing him with the stylus. At any point, the player can select the Notepad tool and type in just about anything imaginable to give to Maxwell. If, for example, Maxwell needs to get up to a place out of reach, the player can give him a ladder, a pair of wings, a jetpack, or a magic carpet. If a player needs to get a biting barracuda out of the way, the player can try an animal higher up in the food chain, like a bear.

Along with the Starlite reward for completing each level, the player earns merits based on how the level was completed. The merits are Ollars, the currency of the game, which can be used to purchase new worlds and levels. Merits grant the use of never-before-used objects, encouraging creativity in problem solving. It's also worth mentioning that weapons are available in the game (guns, swords, etc.), but the merits respond accordingly. A "No Weapons" merit is given for solving the level without the use of any weapons, and some levels are abruptly lost when weapons are used to solve a challenge, as when you shoot another character.

However, sometimes the controls are, well, slippery. Objects don't always behave with real-world physics. It's impossible to stack objects like boxes to have Maxwell climb. If he jumps on a stack, boxes fly everywhere. A helicopter lacks weight, and can be easily flipped over. Animals, even so small as a bumblebee, attack Maxwell relentlessly, making it difficult to give Maxwell what he needs to get passed them. And sometimes, what seems like a reasonable solution isn't, and what seems unfathomable works. Add to this very small spaces in which to work out the challenge, and there are several levels where the frustration outweighs the fun.

Even with the sometimes-difficult controls, the imaginative gameplay makes this a game worth having. There are 110 challenges in Puzzle Mode, 110 in Action Mode, and another 30 bonus levels that can be purchased, all of which can be solved in a variety of ways. Add to that a level editor, where players get to design their own levels, and this game is endlessly re-playable.

Amy Kraft   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Amy Kraft is a freelance writer, producer, and game designer with over ten years of experience making media for children. She writes the blog Media Macaroni and lives in New York City with her husband, daughter and son.

Look for this product at:
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers

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