E3 09: Burch ‘n Davis play Scribblenauts

Shoved in a lonely little corner of the show floor was 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts. Even the DS display was facing backwards from everything else, making the game hidden from the rest of the world save for a lone banner announcing its location. The game was obviously getting no love back there, so Anthony and I went over to give it a shot. We both really enjoy the DS games that the developer has offered so far (Drawn to Life, Lock’s Quest), and were really excited to have hands-on time with Scribblenauts.

While we both initially thought that the game would be markedly different than what it turned out to be, we were still very pleased by what it turned out to be. If you would like to know more about what we thought of the game, or even if you just want to know exactly what the game entails, read on through our post-hands-on conversation.

Ashley: Scribblenauts really surprised me. I went in thinking I would play one cool type of game, and I went out having played another type of cool game.

Anthony: I thought it would involve drawing.
It does not involve drawing.

Ashley: As did I. The screenshots evoked memories of Drawn to Life, also by developer 5th Cell, so I just thought that Scribblenauts was its successor.
Graphically, it looks like it could be. All of the characters and scenery are scribbly and childlike. But you don’t draw any of it.
Instead, you write words.

Anthony: Through a stylus typewriter thing.
And I guess it creates manipulable objects based on what words you input?

Ashley: Yes.
For example, the first puzzle presents you with a doctor, a firefighter, and a chef. The puzzle is to give two of them an item to help them do their job. I popped open the text screen, typed in “spatula”, and a spatula appeared in the scene. I then dragged it to the chef.

Anthony: And that was a really basic puzzle to presumably get you used to the controls.
Then there was a whale you had to get back into the water, and you were all “oh gawd I dunno what to do” and I was like “tie a rock to that bitch” and you were like “oh lawd thank you for your help” and you typed NET and ROCK and attached the net to the whale, then the rock to the net, and the whale slowly fell in when you dropped the rock into the water.

Ashley: That’s exactly what happened.
You can actually write words too, instead of typing them on the in-game keyboard, but I got so into dragging that beached whale into the sea that I forgot to test it to see how well it could recognize my handwriting.
The booth girl told us that the game could recognize pretty much any word you could think of to input, and from what I played, it certainly looked that way. A lot of words, like “net”, also gave you a few options. Before the net appeared in the scene, the game asked me to confirm whether I wanted a large net or a butterfly net.

Anthony: That’s really what will make or break the game, for me. If the game’s inner dictionary is as robust as they claim it is, then this could be a moderately mindblowing puzzle game.
The rep said that you could solve pretty much every puzzle in a bazillion different ways — if you have literally every single noun in the dictionary at your disposal, I believe her.

Ashley: I might just go back there to solve all of the puzzles in a different way than I did this time.
Maybe ask for a helicopter to lift the whale.

Oh shit.

Ashley: Why did I not think of that?

Anthony: If that works, I will buy the game twice.
And I’ll break the other copy so you can’t play it.

Ashley: 🙁

Anthony: I think we should go back, try that, and update this post to find out of the helicopter thing works.

Ashley: Okay! Watch this space if you’re interested!

Ashley Davis