Super Scribblenauts hands-on

Not five minutes into our hands-on Super Scribblenauts preview, Director and Concept Creator Jeremiah Slaczka decided to show off the game's new adjective functionality: “So let’s try this: undead, pregnant, uhh baby. Why not?” And there it was: a small gray, patchworked infant angrily crawling towards Maxwell. A quick tap on the pregnant infant resulted in another, smaller zombie baby appearing from behind; I'd just witnessed the birth of a zombie toddler by a zombie toddler. In most cases, opening with a pregnant zombie baby giving birth is leading with your best material, but in Super Scribblenauts, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Above: Left, the Ifrit wants to punch you. Right, the holy baby wants to hug you

Scribblenauts exists in a gaming gray area, a brilliant concept that isn’t easily shoehorned into any specific genre, but is undoubtedly still a game. And without a well worn path to guide its way, it was bound to have a few hurdles to clear. “It was so innovative we had nothing to go off of […] with a lot of FPSes, you can be like “Well they did that, so you should do that too.” But with Scribblenauts it was totally new territory.” Gamers were enthusiastic and supportive of Scribblenauts, but some critics weren't as kind; the game recieved some mixed reviews as a result of fundamental control and interface issues. Super Scribblenauts is trying very hard to rectify the problems of its predecessor; creating structure where there was none, but without cramping the wild inventiveness that is the franchise’s trademark.

One of Scribblenauts’ problems was having a hard time knowing how other creatures would react to you, vague word bubbles with angry faces in them let you know if they were likely to attack, but that was about it. Super Scribblenauts overcomes this problem by including a huge number of emotes and visual descriptions to let you know what a character is thinking or feeling. We played an RPG themed level where we created weapons for a scrappy young hero who was working his way up in the world.

After successfully dispatching some birds and snakes in true MMO fashion, he leveled up and donned a suit of armor. The level up was indicated by a flexing arm, letting us know he had gotten stronger. We then had to utilize some adjectives to take down more difficult enemies; an "icy slingshot" dispatched a dragon that was calssified as "firey". Aside from the visual clues, some floating text helps explain the more obscure statuses. The hero's last foe was a dark knight, so we equipped him with a "holy pike", which was cutely represented as a spear with a cross and a halo over it. After this victory our little hero returned with a beard and crown, now king of the land!

Above: Maxwell stars in Tremors 7: The Legend of Curly's Gold

The little combat scene also featured another useful upgrade, health bars for all the characters. While combat wasn’t a constant in Scribblenauts, it was irksome seeing Maxwell or the other characters get hit and have to guess at how much health they had left. The tweaks continue: the much maligned controls now feature a d-pad option or an improved stylus control system; both feel infinitely better than the original. The camera is also upgraded, it no longer snaps back to Maxwell on its own so you can pan around for as long as you’d like. A new hint system is in place to help alleviate frustrations, but it’s timed so that the hints get more explicit or cheaper to purchase if you’ve spent minutes struggling with a puzzle.

Outside of the game’s 120 levels there’s an updated level editor with premade mission types and character scripts that take the pain out of constructing levels from nothing. Players will also be able to swap their created levels via wi-fi. Even if building levels isn’t your thing, expect to spend a fair amount of time tooling around the main screen testing your, and the game’s, vocabulary. The new adjectives are interesting not just because of their visual changes, but because of the way they change the AI of the other characters and how they interact with you. Previously, predator creatures or monsters would permanently attack everything regardless of what you wanted them to do, but with adjectives like "friendly" and "loving" that's changed. Jeremiah showed off his creation, a flying, ridable, maternal shark that followed Maxwell around, spewing little hearts to let the player know he wasn’t looking for a snack. The possibilities for mucking about are huge, “Sleepy Cthulhu”, “Violent Nun”, the list goes on.

Super Scribblenauts doesn’t revolutionize so much as it streamlines, making your interactions with it much more intuitive. Jeremiah described the essence of Super Scribblenauts: “This whole game was taking all the user feedback, fan feedback, reviewer feedback, and just trying to make a much better version of Scribblenauts.” From what we've seen we'd have to agree, every aspect of the game that fans and critics complained about has been addressed in some way, from the interface to the more structured levels that still allow for creative solutions. Super Scribblenauts is scheduled to hit stores October 12th, so you'll have plenty of time to brush up on your vocabulary and try to create something more bizarre than a pregnant zombie baby. Good luck.

Sep 2, 2010




  • gamerstar93 - October 10, 2010 5:25 a.m.

    what happenned to the the "metal mutant giant zombieish deformed lady with the to the baby
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - October 3, 2010 10:53 a.m.

    What about "Poor matador" and "very angry bull"? >:D
  • D0CCON - September 11, 2010 10:58 p.m.

    and speaking of rope, will it actually move things with ease or do objects still refuse to budge, forcing Maxwell to move back and forth, inching his way to objectives and destroying platforms you made along the way. Amazingly, the game does have its charms and I still enjoy it enough despite my complaints.
  • elpurplemonkey - September 4, 2010 7:31 a.m.

    I didn't play the first because of the control issues, but since that's been fixed apparently, I very much want to give Super Scribblenauts a shot. A concept as original as this deserves our money, if only so that they can keep trying to innovate.
  • 510BrotherPanda - September 3, 2010 7:23 a.m.

    I set this for reserve not having played the first, but if you give it a good score, I'll more likely get it. I've only heard that the first one had bad controls, so I'd be going into this fresh. The idea seems nice. Better so than Drawn to Life had turned out for me.
  • MrDuracraft - September 3, 2010 5:47 a.m.

    I didn't get the original, but now I am considering getting this one. The controls were part of the reason I didn't go for Scribblenauts, so if nothing comes out between now and Oct. 12 I'll get it.
  • Genericide - September 3, 2010 12:52 a.m.

    If these assertions are true, than this game will be fantastic. The RPG-style levels description leads me to believe that the levels can be longer, the combat has been improved, and the interface makes more sense (hurray for hit points). And if the controls were easily the worst part of the first game. Hopefully, this will turn Scribblenauts from a good game whose good ideas are crippled by some aspects into a game with great ideas AND implementation.
  • GamesRadarMichaelGrimm - September 3, 2010 12:22 a.m.

    @D0CCON From what I played the controls seem totally fixed and usable, especially if you choose the d-pad route. They're also very aware of the rope helicopter stuff and said they based a lot of levels around ideas that cant be exploited by using the same stuff.
  • Shenlong4517 - September 3, 2010 12:20 a.m.

    Hoping to see what a One-eyed One-horned Flying Purple People-eater's gonna turn out like myself.
  • assortednutts - September 2, 2010 11:57 p.m.

    The kraken, black hole, tranquilizer gun, chloraform, rope/chain, and pegasus were my crutches in the first installment. It was unfortunate how the Scribblenauts rom was leaked a week before it was even commercially available; that couldn't have helped sales. Day 1 purchase for me. Would have preferred a 3ds Scribblenauts though...
  • assortednutts - September 2, 2010 11:40 p.m.

    Can't wait to ride my bulimic menopausal emo pegasus! Is that your menstruating vampire gorilla or mine? emaciated slutty diseased hotel-heir FTW.
  • D0CCON - September 2, 2010 11:27 p.m.

    I liked the first one, but playing it was hard. A small tap would send Maxwell into a massive seizure half of the time. Instead of jumping over a crate when he hit it, Maxwell would keep running into it and ignore at least half of my inputs. Jumping was a real bitch in the first game. I wonder if some of the things I wanted to try in Scribblenaut one levels will work better in this as well. Some objects were just weird, like a tornado that would launch into space shortly after hitting something. It was fun at the start screen, but things didn't work well enough for me to try advance things in levels. It basically boiled down to rope, god, and roflcopter, with the occasional explosive or bathysphere thrown in.
  • batmanboy11 - September 2, 2010 10:55 p.m.

    I still haven't gotten around to playing the first one, but if I do before this comes out I might buy it.
  • paperhat7 - September 2, 2010 9:53 p.m.

    cant wait for this game.
  • scrollboi12 - September 2, 2010 9:40 p.m.

    Amazing! seriously, I can't wait. I enjoyed the first scribblenaut, I bet this one will be better!
  • Kenzo - September 2, 2010 9:35 p.m.

    i know the first thing I'm making. "holy hand grenade" lol also "evil purple speedy flying robot zombie pterodactyl."
  • ProfessorBonk - September 2, 2010 9:17 p.m.

    I was sort of hoping for a change in art style or a graphical overhaul, but I suppose the blotty pixel look will do... I only hope that 'new words' aren't the only things this game has to offer, or it'll just be another Crackdown 2. So to speak.

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