16 Attempts At Scribblenauts

Illustration for article titled 16 Attempts At Scribblenauts

I am in possession of an early build of DS game Scribblenauts and an imagination. I mixed the two yesterday morning to try to clear one of the game's levels. It required multiple re-thinkings.


To set this up you need to know that Scribblenauts is a Nintendo DS game developed by 5th Cell and published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, slated for release in the U.S. on September 15.

The 2D game's hook is that it allows players to type in just about any kid-safe concrete noun (no proper names), and the game will render it. Objects rendered can be used by the game's hero, Maxwell. Living things that are created have rudimentary intelligence, so a vampire might attack, say, a police man.

The game has puzzle levels and action levels, both of which involve collecting a star piece called a Starite. In the action levels, the Starite is shown in the level and the player has to figure out how to get it for Maxwell.

In the puzzle levels, which this post is about, the Starite will appear only when each level's condition is met. I uploaded a video to show you a fly-through of Scribblenauts' 11th level in its first world. The goal was to collect three flowers without dying, destroying the flowers or letting a girl who is holding a basket and awaiting the flowers die.

Attempt 1: Created bear to attack bee buzzing over first flower, so I could safely grab the flower. Bear killed bee. Bear then killed Maxwell. Level failed.

Attempt 2: Made bear; bear killed bee. Laid down bear trap. Died. Level failed.

Attempt 3: Made bear; bear killed bee. Laid down bear trap, ran away. Bear didn't chase. Ran back over. Caught self in bear trap. Mauled by bear. Level failed.


Attempt 4: Made bear; bear killed bee; laid trap. Bear caught in trap. Bear broke free. Killed Maxwell. Level failed.

Attempt 5: Made exterminator. Exterminator fumigated bee. Exterminator did not maul Maxwell. Has Maxwell grab first flower and placed it in basket. Approached lake containing piranha and second flower. Fell in. Jumped out. Made fishing pole. Fished piranha out. On land, piranha flopped, attacked, killed Maxwell. Level failed.


Attempt 6: Made exterminator. Exterminator fumigated bee. Did not grab first flower. Approached piranha lake. Made fishing boat. Dropped big boat into lake. Boat must have crushed flower. Level failed.

Attempt 7: Made exterminator. In a twist, exterminator failed to fumigate bee. Bee attacked fleeing exterminator. Bee stung exterminator to death. Bee killed flower basket girl. Level failed.


Attempt 8: Made gun. Shot bee dead. Gun disappeared. Made gun again. Approached piranha lake. Attempted to shoot piranha dead. Bad shooting angle and touchy controls prevented this. Either was too far away and shooting into ground (game was connecting Maxwell's gun to fish in straight line; allowing me to select a "shoot" prompt when tapping on piranha, even though trajectory was blocked. New idea: Made corpse. Threw corpse into piranha lake. Piranha attacked corpse. Dove for flower. Piranha finished corpse and ate Maxwell. Level failed.

Attempt 9: Made gun. Shot bee dead. Made hand grenade. Tossed it into piranha lake. Greande killed fish. Grenade killed flower. Level failed.


Attempt 10: Made gun. Tried to shoot bee dead. Bullet ricocheted and destroyed first flower. Level failed.

Attempt 11: Made beekeeper. Beekeeper fled from bee (?). Made exterminator. Exterminator killed bee. Made fisherman. Fisherman cowered near piranha lake (??). Made fishing pole and gave to fisherman. Fisherman looked like he was about to fish but instead fell into lake and was eaten. (Some of the characters are kind of dumb.) Made another fisherman. Gave him pole. Couldn't figure out how to make fisherman fish. Accidentally made Maxwell fall in lake. Piranha latched on. Death. Level failed.


Attempt 12: Made hot air balloon. Put Maxwell in it. Flew over piranha lake. Made gun. Shot at fish. Gun destroyed hot air balloon instead. Fell into lake. Jumped out of lake. Made corpse. Threw it into lake to draw fish away. Made gun to shoot fish while it ate corpse. Shots didn't hit. Made new corpse and tried with sniper rifle. Didn't work. Dove in and just grabbed flower. Success. Bee was gone. Put lake flower in basket. Put bee flower in basket. Made helicopter to get to high ridge for final flower. Was afraid to land helicopter on ledge, out of fear of destroying flower. Tried to jump out of helicopter. Fell into piranha lake. Died. Level failed.

Attempt 13: Made gun. Shot bee dead. Got first flower. Made two corpses. Tossed them into piranha lake for distraction. Dove and recovered second flower. Made truck and dumped it into lake. Did same with a boat. Tried climbing over those vehicles to get to ledge and final flower. Vehicles shifted; Maxwell thrown into ridge wall. Died. Level failed.


Attempt 14: Made gun. Shot bee dead. Made hot air balloon. Flew to ridge. Got out, grabbed flower. Parked balloon plummeted to lake and killed lake flower. Level failed.

Attempt 15. Same as attempt 14, except replace "gun" with "machete;" and "shot" with "chopped after accidentally destroying nearby house." Level failed.


Attempt 16. Made gun. Shot bee dead. Made hot air balloon. Flew to ridge. Got out, grabbed flower. Got back in balloon. Safely put cliff flower in basket. Put bee flower in basket. Threw corpses into piranha lake to distract fish. Dove in and grabbed lake flower. Jumped out. Put lake flower in basket. Starite found! Success!

I had fun figuring this one out. It was ranked as being of mid-level difficulty. The interface impressively recognized whatever I typed into it. Maxwell's touch-based movement controls took some getting used to... better to touch the part of the ground where you want him to stop then just touching the general direction you want him to move. And item-wielding sometimes turned into accidental item-tossing, since both using and tossing are based on tapping the screen. Small frustrations. The level was a delight.


I just wish beekeepers were braver people.



Are you fucking kidding me? People find this experience entertaining? Replaying the same damn level FIFTEEN times before getting it "right" is not fun to me, it's outright frustrating. Especially considering one of the most glaring faults this game has:

There is NO reason EVERY control in this game needed to be touch-based. Half of your missteps could have been avoided had you been given actual control over Maxwell's movements or item use (via the d-pad and buttons, presumably).

I played this game at E3 and it was the worst game I got my hands on (and I even played Section 8... zing). The controls sucked all the fun out, but when I was told by the development representative to enter "any real world object's name and the game will render it" I immediately entered "torch" and it couldn't be done. She then told me to enter "invisibility cloak," which certainly appeared. I asked her why a fictional blanket was in the game but a stick on fire wasn't. She gave me a blank stare and I walked away in disgust.

Concept = A+

Execution = F