Publishers and developers know that breadth of content can distract players from a game’s failure to address human experience or its inability, in terms of sheer pleasure, to stand alongside classics such as Space Invaders. All the downloadable content, customizable characters, and other tacked-on features in the world shouldn’t be confused with context. Some will criticize Gauntlet for being lean, for lacking the “bang for your buck” padding that companies have conditioned us to expect. Yes, it may be a minor achievement, but its philosophy of concept over content shouldn’t be taken for granted. Old-schoolers may also wonder if this new incarnation of the game reflects their memories. Well, Arrowhead Game Studios has the wit to acknowledge the shift toward obvious in-game hints with the loading screen message “Did you know tips are shown during the loading screen?” (Another message recalls a different kind of advice that appeared in some older games: “Tip: Don’t drink and drive.”) Lost in isomorphic game design, sarcasm, or nostalgia, most action games don’t demonstrate a keen understanding of history like Gauntlet.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (#1–10 of 2)
The original Scribblenauts, released last year for the DS, promised: “Write anything. Solve everything.” It’s a mantra that’s continued in this year’s follow-up, Super Scribblenauts, a more polished and equally ingenious package that renders you a puppet-master and veritable creator god.
Speaking of God, he’s one of the objects you can create in the game—along with zombies. It’s a pair that gave way to the “God vs. zombie” battles we’ve all seen play out in the first installment of this series. You see, the Scribblenauts games grant you the ability to scribble any of your diabolical mind-drippings into existence: space shuttles, nautili, chimeras, the Grim Reaper, a pizza, flowers, yo-yos, whatever. Use these objects to solve puzzles, dispatch enemies or overcome obstacles. For example, draw a bridge (actually, you’ll type the word “bridge” into the game using the DS stylus) to cross a pit of molten lava, or help a hairdresser transform brunettes into blondes by conjuring up some bleach or dye. It was a novel formula that gave gamers a level of control and creativity we’ve never seen before.