Saturday, September 12, 2009

[N]Gamer's Scribblenauts Review

(Nope. Sorry folks. Joshua didn't already change his mind about putting the blog on hold. This is @Scribblenaut speaking.)

A few days back you could read about the first two review scores Scribblenauts had received. There have probably been a few more magazines to review Scribblenauts since then. But if you're not subscribed to any of those magazines, you've most likely not actually read a single Scribblenauts review yet.

I do have one gaming magazine subscription, and that is to [N]Gamer. They recently reviewed the game as well, and I sent them an e-mail asking if I could post an English translation on the internet. I'm not sure why I bothered asking, to be honest. What I was requesting was basically borderline plagiarism. There must have been planetary alignment at the time, though, because they actually gave me permission! I can't thank them enough for that.

Keep in mind, though, that this is a translation of a Dutch review. Obviously not all word play will translate well, but I did my best to prevent the text from seeming plain.
Also, [N]Gamer never wrote a preview to Scribblenauts before this review. So a lot of the review will sound familiar to the hardcore Scribblenauts fans.

But enough delay. Here's [N]Gamer's review of Scribblenauts:


Scribblenauts

No thought too extraordinary

Time certainly flies. While adventurers could only carry up to twenty items back in the day, the lad from Scribblenauts can materialise half a dictionary from his notepad. It's enough to make your jaw drop in amazement.


If there is one thing the creators of Scribblenauts deserve a standing ovation for, it's that they dared to carry out this daring, almost ludicrous concept. Because even though the game might look simplistic, recreating all objects in the dictionary must have cost them a lot of time an effort. Just imagine: Not only does every object need to have a matching appearance, but is must also display the appropriate behavior. No, the gentlemen at 5TH Cell definitely didn't make it easy on themselves.


Cartoony symbols show what people and animals are thinking. That baby is toast!

Digital bag of tricks
Scribblenauts contains 220 puzzles (not counting the tutorial levels). Maxwell, a little chap with a rooster-hat, fulfills the role of main character in these. By completing missions, you earn Starites and unlock more levels. Simple as that. You solve the levels by creating the appropriate objects. Simply type in (or write down) the object you want and it will appear on screen. If you want to reach a higher platform, for example, you can place a ladder next to it, or have Maxwell fly up to it with a jetpack. If you encounter an enemy, you could give Maxwell a shotgun to shoot it with, or you sneak past him with an invisibility cloak. And if you see a cat in a tree, you can summon a fireman to rescue it... or simply lure it with a bowl of milk. But of course there are a few limitation. You can only write down nouns: Adjectives, verbs and proper nouns will not be recognised (though the latter has a few exceptions, such as 'George Washington'). You also can't use vulgar words, or copyrighted objects and characters. Even with these restrictions the list of available objects is massive, and even available in our native language (Scribblenauts has a Dutch language setting: Every word has been translated)!


God can be a big help, though he's not always in the mood.

Platypus
Of course we've tried to 'stump' the game here at [N]Gamer. In other words, we tried to think of words that the creators might have forgotten to add. But that was easier said than done. Platypus? It's in. Sumo wrestler? Present. Oil platform? No problem! Of course these objects aren't very useful when it comes to puzzle-solving, but that's what's so great about it: Scribblenauts gives you the freedom to figure that out for yourself. Of course this does mean that every puzzle can be solved in hundreds of ways. Imagine there's a whale on the beach, and the game asks you to return the creature to the sea. You could tie it to a vehicle and drive into the water. But you could also grab a shovel, and get the water to flow to the whale. Or you hop on the beast and stick a pair of wings to Maxwell's back to fly it back into the ocean. A plethora of options, but you do get rewarded from putting some thought into your solutions. Creative solutions are rewarded with badges and 'ollars' - coins required to unlock new worlds. And if you beat the level three additional times, you are awarded a gold (instead of silver) Starite. So creative players are rewarded, while the indolent player is encouraged to try more original solutions. This is as good as it gets, folks!


If this vehicle doesn't earn us some extra 'ollars', we give up.

Star on the roof
The worlds in Scribblenauts (a total of ten) are divided into eleven action- and eleven puzzle levels. The action levels have one simple goal: 'get the Starite'. This is usually easier said than done. We once stumbled upon Maxwell inside a building filled with explosives, while the Starite was located on the roof. We've lost count of how many times Maxwell exploded, but we can tell you it was more than in all the previous levels combined. The puzzle levels, on the other hand, place you into different scenarios that require more thought. The task you receive is different in each of these levels. In one level you'll be trying to swipe a dino egg for a starving caveman, in another you focus your efforts on getting a cute girl into a swimming pool. Sometimes the solutions are obvious, but as we said: Creative solutions are more rewarding... and more fun. Sure, you can build a bridge to cross a ravine. But of course it's much more fun to jump over it with a motorcycle... on the back of a panda... wearing a top hat! Admittedly, it can be a little tough to combine items. Especially when you're trying to work with chains and ropes things can go awry. Either items refuse to connect, or you accidentally instruct Maxwell to move elsewhere. This can be a tad annoying (especially when Maxwell is in danger), but with a little bit of patience you should be able to manage. Levels do not have a time limit, so you'll rarely need to rush.


In this level you must stop the ninja from massacring the royal family.

Admiration
Once you've plowed through all of the action- and puzzle levels, there's still the option to create your own levels, which you can share with the rest of the world (via Wi-Fi). The level editor contains all 220 level designs, and 38 tunes from the game, and you're given the ability to set the relationship between objects, to add a hint and alter the difficulty setting of the level. We expected no less from the men at 5TH Cell. Perhaps the game is a little less impressive from a graphical aspect, but what it does is so unique and created with such dedication, that we can't look at the game with anything but total admiration. You can literally have weeks - no, months - of fun simply thinking of new objects to try. Original DS games that are fun to play to boot... they do exist!

Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Lasting appeal: 10/10

The Good: No DS game has ever captured our imagination like Scribblenauts has. With tens of thousands of words, 220 puzzles and a level editor you'll be playing for a long time.

The Bad: If you're not of the creative kind, it might be best to avoid Scribblenauts. A bit of patience is also required: the game doesn't always do what you want it to.

Score: 9/10
-Niels de Rijk


To put that 9 into perspective: [N]Gamer has only once given a third party game a higher score than that. And that game was Resident Evil 4.
Evidence of that the game might be as great as we all hoped it would be is piling up, wouldn't you say?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Future of the blog

Hey guys.

Well, as release nears (4 days!) I have found myself at a crossroads. I also wonder if "crossroad" is in the game. Another item to try!

Anyways, I've been wondering about the future of this site and where I'll be going with it. Right now I'm thinking about stopping the blog business.

Really, this was a fan blog to gather news and articles and the like. Once the copy hits none of those things will be needed. Indeed, except for a few games (notably games online), there are very few reasons to keep people "informed" of a game beyond the release.

I was the one who started the "Official" thread over at NeoGAF, and it's there I'll probably forever be hanging out there, keeping the OP updated much in the way I kept this blog up to date. You can find me there, so feel free to send me a PM.

The "decision" is not official and I might change my mind once I get the copy in my hands (4 days!), but...for now? I'll be taking a little break to focus on work and school.

It's been fun, guys. I hope this game turns out as AMAZING as we all want it to be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't forget - this Sunday is the special NYC Launch Event

For some reason uploading that picture entirely messed up the colors...not sure why, but it kinda looks cool, so screw it, I'm keepin' it!

Anyways, this Sunday is the Nintendo World Store launch event for Scribblenauts. As the advertisement above says, from 11:00am - 2:00pm you can come in, chill with the 5TH Cell dudes, buy an advance copy, get some autographs, and apparently even learn some cool strategies for the game.

The thing sounds amazing, and if you're a fan of the game (I'd bet good money that you are) and you're close by, there's really no reason not to go. Advance copy AND meeting Jeremiah and co.? That's priceless. But if you do go, make sure to go early...because it's bound to be packed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First two "real" reviews are out - 9/10 and 10/10

The 5TH Cell guys must be psyched about this one. Though the review embargo for online publications doesn't end until Monday, the embargo on print reviews must be different (due to that production cycle?), as we currently have TWO reviews from two magazines.

Now it's hard to say these two guys are...well...unbias. After all, one is the Italian Official Nintendo Magazine, while the other is the UNOfficial Nintendo magazine of Australia. Still, 5TH Cell is a 3rd party, not a 1st or 2nd, so their bias shouldn't be THAT strong.

Italian ONM gave it a 9 while Ultimate Nintendo gave it a 10/10. Good deal! You can find the covers to both of these magazines below.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

15 year old kid proves he's a better interviewer than most game journalists

I wish I knew the story behind this, as it sounds like an amazing one. Somehow a 15 year old junior news reporter was able to attend PAX and interview Jeremiah. What came out of this Q&A session was fresh info on both the game and 5TH Cell...something which never seems to emerge from typical interviews, which tend to stay close to the "party line", so to speak.

Anyways, let's take a look at it. There's a lot of cool stuff in this article, so make sure you take a look for yourself. I've compiled below some of my favorite quotes.


You'll die before you can experience everything in Scribblenauts because it takes so long


---

As far as the words, I mean, everything -- every single word we could think -- there was no decision except for the copyrights -- no copyrights, no vulgarities, and no proper nouns, and we kind of break the rule on proper nouns here and there. We have Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, just because they're really, really famous.


---

We have robot hamster, because that was a popular Internet meme a while ago. We're like, we've got to put the robot hamster in there, you know?


---

For sequels, we're not really -- we're really focused on the DS right now, so we don't really have any plans at the moment for sequels. It's just like any game. If a game does really, really well, then obviously there will be sequels, but until that time we don't know what we're going to do with it.

---

I don't know, we just wanted to do it because we wanted to make our own stuff, and nobody's going to let you make your own stuff unless you own your own company. If you're your own boss then you get to make the calls, right?


---

if you have passion and you believe in yourself, then just go for whatever it is. So many people, I talk to all the time, they say, Oh, I really want to do this, but I'm stuck in this or that. It's like, so do it! They're like, Oh, but I'm scared, and I'm like, dude, there's going to be failure in anything. Look at the sports stars and stuff. They fail or whatever, but they make it eventually because they know


---

Yeah, we know our price, and we're not worth that, because I sweated blood and tears for six years and I don't want somebody telling me what to do. It's like, I'm doing just fine myself, so why do I need (to sell)? We're making money, we're doing better every year. Not gonna happen.



Seriously, it's a fantastic interview. It really makes me want to work for 5TH Cell. I'm just entirely in love with their philosophy, their code. Check the full thing out already!

New videos and new "themed" week - straight from the horse's mouth

Alright, remember how last week was "Back to School" week? Well, apparently this week is Vehicle Week, and like before, you can check it out on the official Facebook page of Scribblenauts. We were treated with a single new picture, though there are promises of new screens/videos throughout the week.



Speaking of new videos, the official YouTube channel posted 3 short videos for Back to School week. Let's take a look.




Here we seen an early Puzzle level in World 2. It's a pretty simple one, but definitely fitting to this week's (well...last week's) theme. Whereas most teachers simply display their apples on their desk, this teacher decided to gobble it right up. Yum.




Noticing a trend? This video is basically identical to the one above, only this time the teacher doesn't eat the ruler...that we know of.

Anyways, of interest is that this scored the same "Style" points as the last solution. Hmm. I wonder how you can up the style in such a "short" level?




And a 3rd time! Man, these videos might as well be a walkthrough for this level, as you already have the 3 solutions needed to "unlock" a level. This time Maxwell decides to ease her sad heart by spawning in a student. Bear in mind the bell has already rung and all the students went home, so this poor guy is now forced to spend eternity with his teacher.

Poor guy. Ah well, starite get!



It goes without saying we'll be seeing more videos like this, so keep an eye out and I'll make sure to keep us all updated

The Scribblecalm before the Scribblestorm...blahblahblah

Something like that!

All quiet on the Scribblenauts front, eh? Or at least, we're seeing more of the same. This is probably the 3rd or 4th time I've mentioned the so called "calm before the storm", though the previous periods of no news usually proceeded a big event, such as an embargo lifting. This next big event - namely, the release of the game - will most likely be rather large in comparison.

Anyways, sorry for no articles or really any postings today. Nothing really happened that was worth mentioning. I get the feeling most of the big sites have the game in their hands and are currently reviewing it - thus we're not going to be seeing any new impressions or media until the embargo lifts, which will be this coming Monday. The good news is that (in the East Coast) it is officially Tuesday, marking exactly one week until launch. Getting excited?

Expect some more articles/discussion questions/etc. over the week, as I'm not expecting much news. Perhaps we'll see more spilloff of PAX media...but I figure we would have seen that by now! Anyways...I'm rambling now. School starts up again tomorrow in a big way. In about a week's time I'll be covered in projects and tests. I also work every weekend (which ended up being a really big downfall for me recently - AGH!), which only adds to the stress. Lord knows what Scribblenauts will do to my schedule...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reviews on the Run admit their mistake, promises a re-review

I didn't expect this one.

If you haven't already read up on the review craziness that began yesterday...well, you can find it all right here. The long and short of it was that RotR reviewed a preview copy, one they played back in August, and ended up breaking their review embargo. Oops.

Victor Lucas, one of said reviewers, actually posted an apology and an explanation as to what happened. He begins "We screwed up", and explains what happened. Props to them for the apology, though I do wonder if they're only doing it to save face with Warner Bros.

Further, they promise to do a re-review once the review embargo ends, which they reveal is September 14th, a day before release.

[Thanks, Anon commenter!]

Question of the week: How important are controls to a game?

This week's question is most inspired by yesterday's "review debacle". You can check out the first post here and the second post here if you haven't already.

Aside from the stupid crap they did (namely, breaking a review embargo while reviewing an incomplete preview build!), the Reviews on the Run guys felt the controls of Scribblenauts was its one and only flaw, but it must have been a bad one. So bad that one of the reviewers dropped the score 30% for that one complaint. It lead me to wondering just how important controls are to people.

Can you forgive a good game with bad controls? Do controls matter more to a certain genre than others? Can controls actually ruin what would otherwise be a great game? In the grand scheme of ratings (Graphics, Gameplay, Longevity, Controls, Presentation, etc. etc.), where would you rank controls?

As always, feel free to leave your comment below. No need for registration or anything silly like that.