Scribblenauts Remix: Solve Puzzles with Imagination

Games are defined, in part, by the rules and constraints within which you must play. As a result, there are very few games that give you a notably wide range of creative freedom, and even fewer that allow you that range of freedom to complete specific, game-defined goals.

Scribblenauts is a game where your imagination is your most powerful asset in solving puzzles and advancing through the game. The premise of this Nintendo DS original game is simple: to solve the puzzle that you’re faced with, simply “scribble” whatever you can think up that might help you solve the puzzle. The iOS release is called Scribblenauts Remix, and contains levels from both Nintendo DS titles, as well as some iOS specific levels.

The Concept

Scribblenauts is the story (and I use the term story loosely) of a boy named Maxwell and his uncanny ability to materialize from the ether almost any object you can think of to help him in his journey. Objects are summoned by typing a word into a text field and then moving the resulting object into Maxwell’s world, where it can interact with characters and other things.

Title Screen

Title Screen

The game, in it’s present state, contains five worlds of ten levels each, totaling 50 levels. The levels get progressively harder as you go, so for demonstration purposes, we’ll start with a relatively easy one.

Gameplay

Each level shows you the setup, and then provides you with a short, usually vague and occasionally frustrating hint as to what you need to do to solve the level. The grey bubbles across the top denote the number of successful actions you must perform before unlocking the “Starite” which ends the level. This level seems pretty self explanatory, so tap the notepad icon in the corner to enter an article of clothing.

The hints are usually more vague than this one.

The hints are usually more vague than this one.

"Pants" is admittedly a boring item to summon. Shame on me.

"Pants" is admittedly a boring item to summon. Shame on me.

Now, here I’ve written “pants,” but the game recognizes items on a per category basis, so I just as easily could’ve written “shorts,” “jeans” or even “parachute pants.”

Drag the pants to the mannequin to satisfy a level requirement.

Drag the pants to the mannequin to satisfy a level requirement.

Tapping Done will bring the typed item into the world. Depending on the goal, you’ll usually have to tap the item and drag it somewhere in order for it to interact with the world. In this case, putting “pants” on the mannequin has satisfied one of the level requirements, and gotten me one step closer to grabbing that tasty Starite.

If you get stuck on a level, there are two additional hints that get unlocked after a certain length of play. They typically clarify the goal of the level further, and are accessed by tapping the question mark icon from any level.

When you get stuck, check out the additional hints.

When you get stuck, check out the additional hints.

Certain levels might require you to summon objects that will help you modify existing objects in the level. Since knowing what an object is can be important in these situations (and sometimes difficult), tapping the magnifying glass icon in any level will enter Identification Mode. While in this mode, objects in the world can’t be manipulated, and anything you tap on will be identified with a text bubble. Tap the icon again to leave this mode and continue solving the level.

Adjectives

A major improvement that the developers made between the first and second Scribblenauts titles on the Nintendo DS was the addition of adjectives. Adjectives modify the nouns that you enter, much like they do in language. You can make things “huge,” “tiny,” “rainbow,” “existential” or any number of other attributes. To demonstrate this, I summoned a few items into the “Playground” mode, which is the free-play realm that greets you upon first launching the app.

Yes, that’s Maxwell riding a rainbow dinosaur and fighting Cthulhu.

Yes, that’s Maxwell riding a rainbow dinosaur and fighting Cthulhu.

If you had any doubts about the breadth of the Scribblenauts dictionary, I can say from experience that there weren’t very many words that I tried that weren’t supported in one way or another. As you can see above, the game does contain Cthulhu (and, indeed, other Lovecraftian beasts of horror), as well as a plethora of other nouns and adjectives.  The game even has some pretty neat easter eggs and object interactions for the most creative players to discover.

Conclusion

All in all, Scribblenauts Remix is an interesting take on blending free-form creativity with traditional puzzle solving. It’s a lot of fun, and the replay value is pretty high, given that most puzzles have multiple solutions.

Adding new levels isn’t exactly a plausible element of developing a game for a platform like Nintendo DS. As it stands, Scribblenauts Remix is unfortunately short, and with the game on the iOS platform, I’d like to see the developers continue to add levels. They’ve created an interesting and robust system that, I think, can easily be expanded upon ad infinitum.

Along those same lines, I think that the potential for user-generated content is huge here. Assuming a level creation engine could be designed, I would love to access a server and see what my fellow players could come up with.

So what’s your take? Does Scribblenauts Remix afford you a satisfactory level of creativity, or is it still too restrictive? Bonus points if you tell us about the craziest thing you’ve summoned!


Summary

A creative game where you imagine the tools you need to solve the puzzle and then use them to solve it.

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