App review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2012
Scribblenauts Remix
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Scribblenauts Remix

Vocab-building word puzzles inspire creative problem-solving

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 3 reviews
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5–8 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Creativity, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Kids exercise their brains with open-ended vocab-based situations and solutions.

Cons: Some solutions are too narrow and the controls can be frustrating.

Bottom Line: Wide-open problem solving builds creativity, vocabulary, and spelling skills, but controls can be tricky.

Scribblenauts Remix could be great springboard for kids to create their own puzzles complete with scenarios, hints, and a library of objects. To avoid the potential for violent objects, teachers could first present the tutorial then brainstorm through carefully selected levels as a whole group, projecting the app overhead from a tablet. A framework for problem solving would enhance learning and increase the likelihood of successful solutions. Kids could work in small groups, divvying up jobs, then trade with other groups to evaluate drafts. Depending on age, kids could be super motivated by the opportunity to actually develop simple applications from their creations.

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Scribblenauts Remix, originally a console game, pushes the boundaries of puzzle games with word-driven problem solving. Kids are presented with unique challenges like helping a blind man and his dog across moats or delivering Christmas presents to the right house, then the ability to spell out "bridge" or "saxophone" to make those objects appear in the play space. One of three avatars -- Maxwell, a lifeguard, or God -- advances to collect magical "starites" when the puzzle is solved. Ten puzzles each in five worlds (50 total) play out relatively quickly, but users can choose all "current and future levels" for an additional $.99 purchase. Kids can access three levels of hints and approximate words display when a word isn't found in the library. Violent objects and concepts are plentiful, from "magnums" [handguns] that complete a wardrobe to Maxwell needing items for a heist he's planning.

A uniquely open-ended experience, Scribblenauts Remix allows kids to imagine solutions and try them out by spelling out solution words. The tutorial covers how to handle controls as well as how to use the write mode effectively and responsibly (no suggestive material or vulgarity) but not how to think through solutions. While some puzzles are quite challenging, like the last requiring spatial reasoning and detailed hint interpretation, others are limited and defined narrowly by hints. For instance, one puzzle simply asks for constellation names; another asks for a drink of water. Several adjective modes help kids delve into the next part of speech, but they seem to be limited to basic colors, size, and materials.

Though the whole app feels like one big sandbox, kids don't have the ability to create their own scenarios. Objects can be very tricky to select and move due to tight size restrictions. After all levels are complete, replay is possible but a little boring, and the controls start getting buggy. While the store description says avatars allow kids to replay levels as a new user, this was not the case.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Open-ended situational challenges surprise and delight but could frustrate some kids. Kids will keep trying and ask for help to get the job done.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

The depth of available puzzles, objects, and associated vocabulary is fair. Kids are empowered to devise creative solutions. The hints sometimes define narrow ones, and no true sandbox mode exists.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

A fantastic tutorial eases kids into the experience, but navigation and controlling objects can be frustrating.

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Cynthia S. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Fremont Public Schools
Fremont, United States
Scribblenauts: Provide vocabulary to problem solve
This not something I would use as a teaching tool, but instead a resource for extra practice. It does provide reinforcement in spelling and accession of vocabulary terms as the player moves through the game. It was a little cumbersome to figure out what was needed and how each component worked. I spent a great deal of time reading the "help" hints. My concern would be that some students would become frustrated and give up.
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