In the early days of having smart devices, I used to look at the App store far more often to look for interesting things. In doing so, I grabbed a number of games that – while available in other ways – seemed like a nice addition to my mobile devices. Since then, Katamari Damacy, Scribblenauts, the early Final Fantasy games, and others have gone largely unused – but I’ve kept them on my devices just in case.
Over time, the games that have been the main-stays for me on my mobile devices have been board and card game adaptations, a growing field of game apps. For travel, especially, being able to bring a number of full-size board games with you on a tablet is pretty fantastic, and compared to their non-digital counterparts, the value is amazing.
Flash forward to recently, and the Geek
Baby Toddler. I’ll avoid any long discussion of screen time just to say: there is some. The most common screen time is usually with my phone, and looking through all the photos and videos I’ve taken. Other great apps have included ones for drawing, as the cleanup is easy! However, when looking for something to interact with already on my device, and scrolling through all these board games that aren’t a good choice yet… I went back to some of these older games.
The first one I tried was Katamari Damacy, but that quickly proved to not be a good choice yet. The Geek Toddler is far more interested in pressing buttons and getting feedback from her actions that way. So then I tried Scribblenauts.
Scribblenauts originally came out in 2009 for the DS, and made use of the stylus with that system for gameplay – thus the “scribble.” It is a puzzle game but also a sandbox sort of game. You have an avatar, you’re trying to get the star for the level, and there are various challenges in your way. Then you have the power to draw or write the name of something and have it appear in the game.
I mean, probably not anything but items from a book or a ball, to an elephant or a dragon, to a lasso or a pair of angel wings… to my personal favorite for any number of challenges, a black hole.
The game is programmed with all sorts of fun interactions, like some animals being aggressive, lots of vehicle riding and rope attaching antics… Cthulhu…
It’s a fun game, and does a decent job if I remember right of leveling up the difficulty as you go. The star can’t be destroyed or you fail, so often you’re left trying to get it out of danger or having to come up with a gentle solution when you can’t just bull-in-a-china-shop your way through. You also have a limited number of items you can have out at one time, so it’s often about both thinking of a way to solve the puzzle and about how to do it without needing too many elements.
If you missed Scribblenauts, there’s a couple of flavors of it now on mobile, as well as in-app purchases, because of course. Because of the stylistic art design and fun gameplay, this game has aged just fine and will I think remain just fine for the foreseeable future.
Which brings me back to opening this game up with the Geek Toddler. The main hub screen is also just a sandbox, with your avatar standing there, and the ability to create things. I have been able to get the Geek Toddler to request things, and to write them in and voila! There’s an elephant!
You can ride the elephant, summon other animals, do all kinds of things. We tried out some of the early levels, as well, and she stayed interested. The early ones are a bit tutorial, with things like creating items to give to working professionals. Then again, something like that sounds a whole lot like a puzzle or book for a young one – what does a doctor use? A fire fighter? These things.
So while yes, I have to read the puzzles and put in most all of the work right now, that’s a starting point. And sharing in the activity on a device is a great way to do it anyway. And over time, there are elements of the game that she’s going to be able to pick up – like manipulating the objects on the screen, brainstorming solutions to the puzzle, and eventually even the reading and the writing (on the iPad it seems to mainly be writing to create the items).
With a toddler in the house, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of levels to a lot of toys – which feels like its own separate discussion for another day! But it’s great to find another thing like this where we can level up her engagement and learning with it over time. I’m looking forward to more Scribblenauts!