Last Thursday evening I sent Ken to the store to pick up two copies of a new Nintendo DS game that I had been hearing so much about. I had actually heard about it from two different homeschooling families in the span of a week. The game is called Scribblenauts and was just released in the United States on September 15th.
Scribblenauts is a puzzle-solving type game but with a very unique twist. The hero of the game is this little guy named Max, and his goal for the game is to collect Starites through 220 game levels. This part, of course, sounds like just about every other game out on the market; it reminds me a lot of the various Kirby games, for example. What makes the Scribblenauts game unique however, is that instead of picking from a limited, predetermined set of weapons or tools to solve each level as you would in most other puzzle-solving games, you can chose from a seemingly endless array of tools. All you need to do is to type in the word of practically any object you could possibly imagine and that will summon that object to your aid. There are literally thousands upon thousands of objects that you can summon to your help your hero. I actually used a common household toaster to kill a hungry shark on one level! (Hehe…I electrocuted him.) Since there are two save files for each copy of the game, Stephen and I have been sharing his copy of the game. (No one ever wants to share a DS game with Tobin because he has a tendency to “accidentally” erase other people’s saved game files.)
What I especially like about this game is that it manages to be both fun and educational for both of my sons, even though they are years apart in age. They have both spent quite a bit of time playing over the last few days. For Stephen, the challenge is using logic to come up with ways to solve each level. (Some of the challenges are pretty tough, and I sometimes need Steve’s help solving a level, not the other way around.) Because Stephen obviously has a much larger vocabulary than his five-year-old brother does, he can be much more creative in his methods of completing each level. He also enjoys seeing how many weird things he can come up with to use in the “free play” part of the game.
For Tobin, the big challenge is in spelling out the words he needs to summon objects to his side. Tobin does not have a huge spelling vocabulary, but in just a few days he has probably doubled the number of words he can spell from memory and quadrupled the number of words he can read. He has asked us to write out a little list of words he wants to commonly use for his game, and he carries the list around with him when he is playing the game. He frequently asks us to add to the list. It is so funny watching him patiently type in “invisibility cloak” with the DS stylus. The Scribblenauts game also gave us a perfect opportunity to introduce Tobin to our children’s dictionary. Although he is not quite at the point where he can look up words all on his own, he can page through the dictionary and look at the pictures and words and gather ideas for new objects that he can utilize in his game. (He gets a kick out of summoning ghosts for no apparent reason.) He has spent more quality time working on spelling in just a few days than he has in months, and I can already tell that these “lessons” are going to stick with him longer. You can play each level over and over again as much as you want which is great for Tobin because it gives him an opportunity to use the words he has learned over again to reinforce them.
I really hope that the boys don’t get bored with this one too quickly. Besides building up puzzle-solving skills and spelling skills, I have noticed that they have been playing together a little more than usual. It is nice seeing the boys spend time together.
Also, if they get bored with the game too fast, who is going to help me when I get stuck on a level? I don’t think the toaster trick is going to work with every puzzle of the game…