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PAX ’09 – Scribblenauts

PAX 2009

Rushed to the front of the massive line by a PR rep and plopped in front of someone who had obviously been waiting their turn for a long time, I felt a little sheepish when I first got my hands on Scribblenauts. After awkwardly apologizing to the attendee whose turn I was usurping, though, they stuck around to look over my shoulder and backseat play – a fitting punishment for me, I suppose; at least they didn’t hate me, as some of the people in the queue surely did. After being guided through the first level of the game by PR people, I was let loose on a few puzzles by myself.

“Type in ‘nothing’. Like the word, ‘nothing’.”

My shoulder-friend again. Still feeling bad for inadvertently pushing him away from the game, I complied. A black hole appeared, and after I dragged it around the screen, it began spinning. It eventually sucked all of the level, including myself, into nothingness.

Fitting punishment, indeed.

The sheer volume of the in-game encyclopedia is essential to Scribblenauts. A puzzle game of sorts, it presents you with a situation where the player must navigate their way through obstacles and enemies to acquire a Starmite. Scribblenauts starts simple, but even easy levels can be completed in convoluted and amusing ways. For example, the first puzzle features a Starmite sitting just out of reach in a tree. It’s easy to just type in “ladder” and be done with it – of course, it’d be way more awesome to build a ramp, spawn a dirt bike, and jump to the star. The puzzles get more and more complicated, and populate with enemies to fight, so the levels end up requiring zanier and zanier thinking. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.


It helps that the items you can summon are fun to look at, too. Similar to Jeremiah Slaczka’s last game, Drawn To Life, Scribblenauts is populated with large, colorful graphics that are animated in 3D, but resemble classic sprites. The worlds are all colorful and vibrant, and while the player character is unassuming, the things spawned by players – cats, rocks, God, birds, bread, ladders, Cthulu – are all playfully rendered and always amusing. I can’t stress just how comprehensive the word bank is; household objects, weapons, deities, and internet memes are all waiting to be discovered by a diligent player.


Scribblenauts has been an internet phenomenon for a while now, and after creating a time machine and fighting dinosaurs with a UFO, it’s easy to see why. The irreverent humor and endless puzzle solutions are nothing short of endearing. Players won’t have to wait long to get their creative juices flowing, either, as the game releases on September 15th.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth interview with the game’s creative director, Jeremiah Slaczka!

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

Gentle persuasion

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