I like this game. I like it a lot. While I think that the functional criticisms are fair, my personal paradigm regarding software product releases is such that Im rarely looking for perfection. (Notable exceptions include things like operating room life support machinery, airplane dashboard meters, or anything else that functions in an actual life/death context.) For me, if something gets it 90%-95% right, Im happy. This is partly because I think that the ideas that emerge from the frustration caused by the 5%-10% Needs Improvement items often result in a much better product than would be developed by the people who are immersed in it from day one, alone. Its also partly because Im old enough to remember when the first Texas instruments calculators hit the market (at more than $100/each), with their groovy red numbers, weight, and awe-inspiring mystique. I remember the first Atari, pong, Space Invaders, Centipede, and Nintendo, too. Yes, its true, I even grew up in a home without touch-tone phones! As a result, my concepts and expectations around development pace and functionality are probably different than those of people for whom computing technology has always been a part of the backdrop of life.
So, those caveats aside, heres what Ill say about Scribblenauts: its brilliant. Really fun, in a different way from any other game Ive played. I like it the way I like Drawn to Life on the Wii--not because they function similarly, but because each one helps me to encounter myself, my thinking, my aesthetic, and my problem-solving in ways that other games and life activities dont tend to do. Its fun to notice how various game situations inspire specific clusters of creative responses. I get to see what my thinking habits are, what kinds of associations I make between things, etc. When I talk with or play with someone else, especially a child, I get to hear about how *they* do those things, and its fascinating!
I agree that the controls are clunky, and as others have opined, I would prefer to be able to use the keys--or to have the option to choose how to set up the controls. My tendency is to not use the stylus much due to a nagging shoulder injury that does not enjoy extended periods of holding my hand hovering over something. (Ah, middle age! At last we meet!)
The criticisms about object interactions are also valid. I expect that the next iteration will address them. To me, that particular fix is not realistic for a v. 1.0 release. Development dollars must always be balanced against the need to get to the thing into the hands of people and have some kind of revenue stream and sense of demand/market acceptance. Before I bought it, I expected that there would be things that would seem logical to me that would not work in the game, as well as any number of words that would come to my mind and have no cross-reference in games dictionary. I know that I have a large vocabulary and an unusually fertile imagination--though, even if I didnt, I would expect there to be some degree of misalignment between my thinking and the games.
I dont mind having several words for related objects (e.c., scimitar, kopesh, etc.) call up drawings that look the same. The style of animation (part of why I love in this game) is simple and doesnt lend itself to fine differences. Just as I wouldnt care if it differentiated between Coke and Pepsi, I dont dont care whether various kinds of curved blades represented by the same image. I can see why it might bother someone else, though, because people vary a lot in terms of when literal or otherwise specific variations matter to them. For example, it would bother me a lot to have different kinds of bones represented by the same shape--a tibia and a fibula do not look the same, even thought they are both long bones.
For me, part of the fun of the game is finding what words *will* work in a situation where the ones that come to my mind first arent part of the database. Its one of the things that reveals to me information about how I think. That said, I think one thing that could be very cool would be an online interface in which one could add words to the dictionary--for their own machine, or as an globally available update. It could be pretty simple to create an interface that was largely automatic. You enter the word, then go from grosser to finer taxonomic categories in order to arrive at a set of related images. In the case where no existing image comes close, one could attach a photo or other representation that would need to be reviewed by a person in order to have a line drawing created for inclusion. This, plus the level-building opportunities could result in a really robust user feedback loop. I would enjoy the socio-cultural enrichment piece of that as well as the new challenges and opportunities it presented.
Though I have had some frustrating moments with a bicycle, and I can absolutely understand the dog/muzzle irritation, my overwhelming feeling about this game is that it is a lot of fun and is the product of cutting-edge creative work. I will buy future iterations happily, while having no intention to relinquish the original--because it is, in fact, an original. I think about how much fun it is to re-visit the original Zelda/Link game, and know that this one will hold a similar appeal, no matter how sophisticated future versions become.
by: Alice on Monday, 13-September-2010