Scribblenauts – a great creative, problem solving game

Scribblenauts was originally introduced to us via my brother’s Nintendo DS.  When we saw it out for the iPad, we jumped on it. 

Maxwell, the main character, often finds himself in situations where he needs help.  That’s where you come in.  You create objects (by describing them) and they magically appear in the world.  Then you help Maxwell achieve his goals with those objects.  In this screenshot we took, Maxwell is trying to help out his friend fill up an aquarium with a variety of animals.  I’ve put in a “giant green octopus”, a “tiny blue whale” and a “puffer fish”.  I’m 3/5ths of the way to our goal.

The fact that it handles a ton of nouns is fantastic.

That you can add onto those nouns a large assortment of adjectives makes the game truly fun.  We’ve spent hours playing around in this little world seeing what we could come up with and challenging ourselves to come up with new solutions too.  Partly just to see how the game would handle it sometimes. And the vocabulary matters.  A “dinosaur” isn’t very aggressive and looks like a t-rex.  A “T-Rex” is a lot easier to type, so when I tried that shortcut with Sal one day, he was upset that the dinosaur quickly ate Maxwell.  Of course, a “friendly T-Rex” is much nicer to Maxwell.

It’s one way to try and teach the importance of precise wording.  I think it’s a great game and I’m constantly impressed with its open ended flexibility, but we probably let Sal play it on his own a little to early.  See, I had been playing levels before he had, just to check them out.  And there are some that have zombies and there’s a horror movie set level. Needed to skip those with him (though we were surprised that zombies are a popular topic at school).  Anyway, you should be aware that those are in the game and check them out before letting a little one play it on their own.

But for the levels that we were comfortable with, we let him explore the world on his own.  Then he shouted out some frustration one day and we asked him what was going on.  He said that he was trying to get Maxwell a friend, but he got the opposite instead. I love the way these little ones talk.

We talked about it some more, probing what’s the opposite of a friend and found out that it’s a little red mean devil.  That was quite the opposite!  We had to think about it for a moment and then realized that he had typed in “fiend” instead of “friend”.  So, again, another learning experience and I think he’s very familiar with the similarity and difference between those two words now.  But it was a little more traumatic of a spelling lesson than I think we expected. (This second screenshot is us riding a friendly T-Rex, which protects us from the fiend that’s looking for a fight.)

Overall, it’s a great game.  When we play together, we get to talk about how to help Maxwell and explore potential solutions together.  It’s a fun way to expose him to more vocabulary and concepts (one level needed the 3 things essential for a city government and that sparked a nice conversation about the way cities work).  And on his own, it’s an app that he’s encouraged to practice his spelling with, without really knowing it.

Though he usually gives Maxwell a gun for self defense right away now a days…

Available as a universal app for iPhones or iPads:
Scribblenauts Remix - Warner Bros.

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