BlogScribblenauts was the game that got most of the glory at [this year's E3](/posts/topics/E3 2009). The premise was almost revolutionary in that the possibilities were seemingly infinite: conjure up almost any animal, vegetable, or mineral to help you solve open-ended puzzles. Hatch a dinosaur egg, help a lumberjack chop down a tree, etc. There are reportedly over 20,000 nouns manually programmed into the game to assist you in solving puzzles.
I was pretty excited about Scribblenauts until I read this review in The Onion (don't ask me how I found it or why I read a game review in The Onion...):
Most of Scribblenaut’s animals, vegetables, and minerals interact in one of two ways. Either they attempt to destroy each other, or they loiter around doing nothing. It’s usually the latter, so your experience is filled with ovens that don’t bake and roosters that don’t crow at the sun. If you place a plumber in front of a leaky pipe and give him a wrench, he stands there scratching his head. Either the game carries a deep cynicism toward the working class, or something is missing here.
There are occasional epiphanies, particularly in the puzzle stages, where you complete cute objectives like hatching a dinosaur egg. (The action stages, where the goal is to retrieve “starite” gems, are hampered by fumbly physics that make every moving part feel like a slack-stringed marionette.) Even the moments of success are underwhelming, though, which is baffling, because Scribblenauts looks like it should be a joy. The aesthetics are bright, the writing is spare and pithy, and the game isn’t afraid to be silly. So why is it such tedium?
The reason is that Scribblenauts isn’t really about exploring your imagination, it’s about flailing for the sweet spot on the Venn diagram where your imagination happens to overlap with the developers’ own. The more creative you try to be, the more often your efforts lead to a dead end. While it’s reassuring to find that human ingenuity is too varied to be cataloged in a tiny DS cartridge, it doesn’t make for a very fun game.
I'd like to follow up this disappointing revelation with this nail for the coffins of uncreative types like myself:
via Penny Arcade
I'll pass on Scribblenauts, thank you very much. Instead, I went on eBay and bought Namco Museum DS (strictly for Pac-Man Vs., the best multiplayer game of all time), Contra 4, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, all for almost as much as the cost of a new copy of Scribblenauts.