Review by Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2012
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Scribblenauts Unlimited

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Stimulating and creative adventure helps kids grow their vocabularies

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
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Grades
5-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: It pushes kids to explore their imaginations, first thinking of and then spelling words they may not normally use.

Cons: Violence -- including guns, swords, and bombs -- is allowed, which means this game a questionable fit for a classroom setting with younger students.

Bottom Line: This game encourages kids to expand their vocabularies and practice spelling.

This game requires either a Wii U or Nintendo 3DS for each player. A two-player co-operative mode is supported in the Wii U edition, but only the player with the GamePad is capable of spelling words and summoning objects into the game world. Groups could play it with one student acting as the scribe and others making creative suggestions to try. This game excels at motivating kids to be creative thinkers.

Teachers may want to recommend Scribblenauts: Unlimited to parents as a good game to promote creativity and practice spelling and vocabulary at home. 

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Scribblenauts Unlimited allows kids to summon into the game just about anything that they can name simply by tapping out letters to spell nouns and adjectives. Tap out "bunny" and a rabbit will appear on screen. Describe him as "angry" and he'll begin to fume about. Thousands of possible creatures and objects can be called forth, and they can be modified by adjectives in nearly as many ways. Kids are free to experiment all they like, but if they want to progress the story they'll need to make their little hero -- Maxwell -- walk around the game's flat, two-dimensional environments and help other characters in order to collect Starites. Starites are magical objects necessary to keep Maxwell's sister Lily from succumbing to a curse that's slowly turning her to stone. The non-player characters Maxwell chats with have a wide range of requests, from buildings that need to be demolished to overgrown lawns that need to be cut. It's up to students to figure out imaginative ways to solve their problems. 

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This game is all about creativity. Rather than forcing students to use a prescribed solution to a problem, it encourages them to stretch their imaginations to come up with their own novel ways of getting things done. For example, instead of telling the player to use a fire extinguisher or hose to put out a fire, she can come up with her own method -- like writing "rain cloud" to conjure up a cloud that will extinguish the blaze with falling droplets. Kids can use the same words over and over again to solve similar problems -- and some probably will -- but they earn bigger and better rewards for being imaginative and not repeating themselves.

Scribblenauts Unlimited ends up serving as a workout for students' vocabularies. Players need to figure out how to effectively and efficiently describe the objects, people, tools, and creatures that they want to summon, which requires them to think of the precise words necessary to describe them and their behaviors. And while spelling doesn't always need to be exact (the game attempts to interpret misspelled words), students still get to see and select the proper spelling, helping them to understand their mistakes.

But as creative and original as Scribblenauts: Unlimited is, kids will only get out of it what they put into it. You can be pretty lazy and unimaginative and still meet the basic requirements to succeed in most challenges. It's a game best suited for naturally imaginative and adventurous minds.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Most kids will be amazed by the game's capacity to summon virtually any sort of object or creature they describe with words. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

This game is all about experimentation. Kids use their imaginations to think of clever ways to solve problems, then try their ideas to see how they work out. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The game offers just enough instruction to get going, then lets kids loose to figure out solutions on their own. If you do get stuck, the game will eventually provide a simple clue or suggestion.


Teacher Reviews

5
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Featured review by
Heather H. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Assets School
Honolulu, HI
5
In an Ipad Imersion classroom, if my student are off task, they are playing this game.

My classroom is designed for students that find Writing and Reading Comprehension difficult. My students love to play this app. Shh- don't tell them that they are improving their vocabulary.

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