Before we jump headfirst into this whole “Super Scribblenauts review” business, let us engage in a brief history lesson. Developer 5th Cell released their original Scribblenauts game in 2009 to Nintendo DS gamers with mammoth expectations due to the gigantic amounts of hype the developer garnered at E3 of that year. The reason for this is that the game featured an ambitious concept where players could summon any sort of object they could think of (animals, people, buildings, kitchen utensils, whatever) by simply typing its name and could then use said objects to solve various puzzles. The game had a fanbase before it was even released.
Long story short, Scribblenauts made good on most of its promises; however, it also featured some of the worst movement mechanics to grace a Nintendo DS game. Players would move the game’s protagonist – Maxwell – around the level by tapping points on the touchscreen with their DS stylus. Basically, guiding Maxwell was akin to directing a drunken hippopotamus on a unicycle. This all but ruined the experience for most people.
Now, with a year gone by and Super Scribblenauts on store shelves, fans can dash into the streets and give praise to the gods, for Maxwell’s movement inputs have been mapped to the d-pad and face buttons!
Above: Set cows aflame in jubilation!
Super Scribblenauts claims to bring 10,000 new words into its dictionary, which if you were actually able to make it all the way through the original Scribblenauts library of words to merit 10,000 new additions, we commend you (you sick freak). With the exception of anything considered vulgar or copyrighted, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a word that Super Scribblenauts’ system doesn’t recognize. What’s even more impressive is that the sequel comes equipped with an adjective system to modify your creations. You want to create a friendly zombie? Go for it. Need a fire-breathing striped badger? No problem.
The funny thing is that some gamers may not even get as far as the single-player campaign for the first few hours and just opt to mess around in the start screen seeing what can be conjured up from the veritable ether. Super Scribblenauts holds nothing back from the player. Anything can be unlocked simply by stretching the imagination (or having a Webster’s dictionary handy).
Just like in the original game, Maxwell’s goal is to collect “Starrite.” Likewise, each time you solve a puzzle, you are given “Ollars” which can be spent on in-game sprites that replace Maxwell as well as tips for completing particularly difficult puzzles (if you’re a big fat cheater).
Above: Maxwell helps a witch create a love potion
Super Scribblenauts puts a new spin on the series by placing much more emphasis on puzzles than its predecessor. While the action levels where Maxwell must search for Starrite in various environments are not entirely gone, they now take a backseat in the overall experience. In terms of design decisions, 5th Cell deserves high marks for this because the heavier puzzle-driven focus side steps a major issue that was present in the first game: the jet pack phenomenon. You see, all of the hazards placed in the action stages of the original Scribblenauts became entirely moot once you figured out that Maxwell could just strap on a jet pack and stay out of harm’s way. Not the case in Super Scribblenauts. This sequel forces the player into a type of open-minded, lateral thinking that isn’t often seen in other puzzle games.
While the game does suffer a small degree of “sameyness” in its large repertoire of puzzles, there really are some truly creative gems to be found. For instance, one puzzle places you in a prehistoric-themed level filled with dinosaurs and tasks you with bringing about their extinction. The amount of possible solutions are staggering. We started a flu epidemic from a diseased rainbow unicorn.
Super Scribblenauts doesn’t feature conventional multiplayer, but the improved level editor does afford some light social gaming to fans of the series. With the addition of scripts, players can create their own fully realized puzzles to share with other Scribblenauting individuals via Nintendo DS WiFi.
Above: Not partial to a golden elephant? How about a gigantic orange one?
In a nutshell, Super Scribblenauts is a fantastic game. It approaches puzzle solving in a very open-ended manner that increases the game’s replay value dramatically and the overall novelty from the first title continues to entertain in this sequel with the new adjectives system. Add that Super Scribblenauts has no glaring flaws (i.e. Maxwell can finally be moved around with the freaking directional pad) and you’ve got a very solid game. If you own a Nintendo DS, you should own Super Scribblenauts.
Oct 12, 2010