Every once in a while a game comes around that has a concept which is so awesome, nothing else about the game matters.  For me, 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts is one of these games.  I know the game has been out for quite some time now, but I’ve actually just gotten around to playing  it.  And boy am I glad I did.

The concept of the game is simple:  Give the player a problem and let him come up with his own tools to solve it.  In Scribblenauts you can create literally almost any object that you can imagine; just type it in and watch it magically appear on-screen.  This kind of freedom for the end user is pretty unprecedented, at least in this type of graphical fashion. This unbridled freedom raises a multitude of very interesting questions from a design and playability standpoint, not the least of which is “Can I draw a penis?”

Unfortunately, the answer is no.  For various reasons, the developers decided not to include some things in their dictionary.  According to the game, the rules are as follows:

  1. It must be a real-life physical object.
  2. It cannot be:
  • a place
  • a proper name
  • suggestive material
  • shape
  • Latin or Greek root word
  • alcohol
  • race or culture
  • vulgarity
  • copyrighted

Most of these rules aren’t so bad.  I’m pretty sure I can live without Latin and Greek root words, for instance.  The one rule in there to note, though, is the prohibition of “suggestive material” and vulgarity.  A wise decision by the developers, I think, as this makes depravity all the more fun.  By outlawing outright representations of obscenity, they have opened the door to a whole world of subversive humor.  I would love to see someone do a contest for the best representation of “X” body part on-screen in Scribblenauts.

Quite seriously, though, the game is an enormous amount of fun.  Of course, it’s not without it’s flaws.  For example, the controls can be quite wonky at times, and many different words render on-screen as the same object, which can be disappointing.  Also, a lot of expected interactions between objects are missing.  These small flaws are easily forgiven, though, on account of its massive enjoyability.  I was skeptical when I first heard of the game and its concept, but they really delivered on their promise.

My only hope is that 5th Cell are already working on a sequel, with more objects and interactions.  Someday, I would love to see something like this done in 3D, perhaps a bit like Little Big Planet.  Until then, I’ll be happy drawing suggestively placed fruits.