Scribblenauts Hands-On Preview
Scribblenauts box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: 5th Cell 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Warner Bros. 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sep. 15, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Adventures in Text
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

July 23, 2009 - Although we've seen a lot of games leading up to the video game blitz that is the fall, none have been quite as impressive as Scribblenauts. This title (which also won our Most Original and Best Handheld of E3 awards) has become one of the most-anticipated games of the year and for good reason: its premise is wildly different than anything we've ever seen. The game is best described as a puzzle-platformer, but it has a pretty significant twist. The difference being you can summon anything to help you reach your goals by simply writing it down.

Scribblenauts screenshot

We were able to run through a few of the game's challenge-based levels, and of course, our first mission was to break it. Call it what you will, but as soon as we heard the game's "Write Anything" tagline, we were convinced that there HAD to be something we could do to break the game. Before even attempting our mission (which involved cooling our character off) we set about writing anything and everything we could think of to dupe the game. But no matter what we tried, whether it was "killer whale," "swimming pool," "flip flops," "DVD," "hurricane," or "beard," the game spawned whatever we wanted in quick order. It was quite impressive. No matter what we tried, the game could not be stumped.

While we were working hard on trying to baffle the game, we were also able to talk to one of the lead developers. When asked how they went about putting so many words in the game, I was told that several members of the team simply took a dictionary and spent days plugging away at everything they saw on the page.

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However, no matter how novel the summon everything tool is, it wouldn't be very useful if Scribblenauts didn't have gameplay to back it up. Fortunately, Scribblenauts has plenty going for it in this department as well. The game has three main modes: puzzle, platform, and creation. The puzzle mode is the one that we got the most hands-on time with, and involves answering a query given by the game. The puzzle mode starts off relatively simple with questions that ask you to move objects or alter your landscape, but we have been told that the puzzle levels will get a lot more complex as you play the game.

Scribblenauts screenshot

The platform levels form the game's story mode and the game's hero, a kid named Maxwell, on his quest to gather stars throughout the Scribblenauts world. You'll be presented with numerous obstacles like tall walls, large pools of water, and even moving characters that will prevent you from getting your star. Of course, to get past these things you will need to write something down to help you. We were able to play through the beginning of this story mode and had to get a star from a tree. Naturally, we wrote "ladder" first and simply climbed up the tree to get the star. However, we also were able to summon a trampoline as well as a jetpack to get this same star.

The final mode, create, is the only one we weren't able to get any time with, but we have been assured that players will be able to use the game's unique word-summoning tool to create unique levels that can be shared with other users. We weren't able to ask whether this sharing will be facilitated via online servers or by direct DS download, but either way the creation tool should make for some serious replayability.

Scribblenauts screenshot

Scribblenauts is looking to be one of the biggest little games ever. While its premise of writing anything is simple, the sheer amount of solutions you can come up with to solve a problem in the game is staggering, and not since last year's LittleBigPlanet have we seen a game that inspires so much creativity. Look for Scribblenauts when it releases this fall!

By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor


Game Features:

  • 5TH Cell invites players from all backgrounds to use their imagination and wit in this groundbreaking, original IP for the Nintendo DS!
  • The premise is simple: The player uses the touch-screen to help their character, Maxwell, acquire the star in each level by solving a series of puzzles. The twist is, in order to solve each puzzle the players use the notepad to write down objects that are used to reach the goal.
  • This game is all about experimentation, imagination and endless replay value. Think of any person, place or thing, write it down, and watch it come alive! Write Anything, Solve Everything!


  • Screenshots / Images
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