What’s Wrong With Scribblenauts’ Supernatural Pecking Order?

Geek Culture

image: 5th Cell/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainmentimage: 5th Cell/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

image: 5th Cell/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

By this point, I think we can safely assume that everyone interested in the game has already played groundbreaking DS puzzler Scribblenauts. Moreover, we can also assume that even those who haven’t have probably at least heard of the title in passing. The general consensus regarding its overall merits and limitations has praised Scribblenauts‘ core puzzle-solving mechanic – the ability to type in words which are then transformed into usable onscreen items – while lamenting its sketchy player control. But my beef with the game lies elsewhere.

You see, Scribblenauts provides players with a positively staggering word bank from which to draw. For instance, you can surmount an environmental obstacle by climbing over it with a ladder, flying above it with a jet-pack or utterly destroying it (and yourself) with an H-bomb. So, of course, within this robust internal dictionary there exists a veritable rogues gallery of supernatural beasts. Sadly, their powers are not properly weighted.

In addition to solving the couple hundred preloaded puzzle maps and creating your own via a level editor, the game also affords you the opportunity to play around freely on its title screen. In this sandbox young Maxwell, your player character, can run amok unfettered by time limits or mission objectives, and you can toss in items as you see fit. It was here that I elected to pit monster against monster for my own idle amusement, and also where I learned Scribblenauts‘ dirty secret.

Allow me to share.

Your first tier of baddies, the lowly minions, are dominated by underworld cannon fodder like zombies, mummies and ghouls. Scary enough, sure, but easily destroyed by any number of healthier opponents. Ranked above them in strength and resilience are more obviously powerful creatures: werewolves, cyclops, minotaurs and the more aggressive lot. From there things take an interesting turn with the welterweight monsters all possessing some manner of (unfair) mystical advantage; witches transform opponents to frogs, while mythical badasses like gorgons and cockatrices can turn enemies to stone.

And towering above them all is the Lovecraftian horror of the dread Cthulhu. The great sleeper not only outweighs the lesser monsters, but outclasses them with regard to both strength and resilience. Yet, surprisingly, he is not at the top of the heap.

Friends, I am here to tell you that, as far as 5th Cell and Warner Bros. Interactive are concerned, the big bad on the block is none other than the humble vampire. Yes, a vampire can trump a mummy. It can best a basilisk. It can beat a Great Old One into submission.

Frustrated by this imbalance, I began throwing every fantastic creature I could think of at the vampire, and he defeated all comers. In a last-ditch effort to terminate the bloodsucker via hands-off combat – and yes, Maxwell can use things like stakes and garlic to kill him directly – I pitted him against God.

Who he promptly turned into a ghoul.

Call it Twilight fanboyism at its worst or simply lopsided undead favoritism, but let it be forever known that, in the world of Scribbelnauts, the vampire reigns supreme.

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