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If you spell it, it will come.

Perhaps this is what people who don't play games think games are like. You must have had that moment where you're playing a game and there's a locked wooden door in front of you and an axe in your inventory, and your friend says, "Why don't you just smash the door down with the axe?" And you have to respond, "Look, just shut up, you don't know what you're talking about, OK?"

In Scribblenauts, if it seems like it should be possible, it's likely going to be possible. In fact, what Scribblenauts is capable of is so astonishing, so utterly complete in its collection of everything ever in the universe, it seems like it can't possibly be real.

Surely in a level which sets me the challenge of crossing main character Maxwell across some shark-infested water to reach the target Starite (the star shapes that represent your constant goal), it's not realistic that I can type in that I want an Ichthyosaurus, and then see whether it can beat the shark in a fight. Nor does it seem reasonable that I could tap in "PEGASUS", jump on the winged horse's back and fly safely over. It starts to get a little silly when I ask for a teleporter, step in, and find myself in an alien laboratory.

There is no question that Scribblenauts is an incredible achievement. Almost any item, object or animal you can think of, so long as it's not a proper noun (or rude, or alcohol, weirdly) appears after being typed - animated, and behaving appropriately. Create a spider monkey and he'll eat a banana. But a bulldog won't. They will fight, however. And it's specific - it's not monkey or dog. It's sub-species. You can ask for a tree, but you can also ask for an oak, maple or bonsai tree. Finding out who would win in a fight between a werewolf and a vampire can... Well, actually, that illustrates something else.

It's a griffin wearing a summer hat. Of course it is.

I'm putting off the bad news, and I have to get it in here before we go too far. Scribblenauts is not that great. In fact, much of this game is a mess. The puzzles vary between uninspired and simple and frustratingly obscure and fiddly, rarely finding the correct middle ground. The controls are nothing short of appalling. And there's nothing holding any of it together. But here's the thing: how long can you stay mad after this...

Pitting a vampire versus a werewolf is just the sort of experiment Scribblenauts invites you to try. Not because the game demands it but because if you're given a box of magic crayons and a big blank sheet of paper, you won't be able to resist. So create a vampire and werewolf, drop them into the level, and oh... The vampire exposed to the daylight immediately turns to a pile of dust on the ground. The werewolf, meanwhile, transforms into a regular guy. Because it's daytime.

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John Walker