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Review: Super Scribblenauts


3:36 PM on 10.21.2010
Review: Super Scribblenauts photo



I remember how I came across Scribblenauts. This was one of those games that I went out of my way to play after hearing about how people were creating items in a game by simply jotting a word down. Fantastic images filled my head after hearing stories of the game recognizing internet memes. Everyone was talking about it, so my imagination went wild.

I played it and was seriously underwhelmed. I found myself typing out words that were really just solutions  to puzzles, and there wasn't really that much interactivity between your character and the created item. I suppose it was a fine puzzle game, but it did very little to match that mental image that I had. 

For the sequel, Super Scribblenauts, I knew more of what to expect going in. And yes, there have been a few changes made to the original formula, but I think my enjoyment came from knowing that I was not going to be able to do something like summon EVA-01 from Evangelion in the game. My expectations were a bit more realistic this time around. 

Again, it's a fine puzzle game.

I remember how I came across Scribblenauts. This was one of those games that I went out of my way to play after hearing about how people were creating items in a game by simply jotting a word down. Fantastic images filled my head after hearing stories of the game recognizing internet memes. Everyone was talking about it, so my imagination went wild.

I played it and was seriously underwhelmed. I found myself typing out words that were really just solutions  to puzzles, and there wasn't really that much interactivity between your character and the created item. I suppose it was a fine puzzle game, but it did very little to match that mental image that I had. 

For the sequel, Super Scribblenauts, I knew more of what to expect going in. And yes, there have been a few changes made to the original formula, but I think my enjoyment came from knowing that I was not going to be able to do something like summon EVA-01 from Evangelion in the game. My expectations were a bit more realistic this time around. 

Again, it's a fine puzzle game.

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Super Scribblenauts (DS)
Developer: 5th Cell Publisher: Warner Bros.
Released: October 12, 2010
MSRP: $29.99

Imagine being able to create anything out of a dictionary by jotting a word down in with a magic pen. That's what you do in Super Scribblenauts, just as you did in its predecessor. The things you'll write are solutions to one of the game's many puzzles, just as in the first game. Often this solution will solve a problem that will let your character, Maxwell,  physically proceed to pick up a piece of Starite, thus completing the level. Other times you'll find that you're simply playing a guessing game, and that little or no physical interaction is required. You'll guess and write in both types, working your way through stages represented by stars in the night sky, eventually making constellations.

Super Scribblenauts adds the ability to write down adjectives with the magic pen. As you can guess, this addition has you creating items that are a bit more specific to clear the in-game puzzles. Where you might have had to jot down the word 'key' to open a door in the first game, you'll find that puzzles are looking for you to create a 'green key' to open a green door. And while the game does start out with basic adjective-based puzzles like this, it opens up to be a bit more challenging later. It seemed like the game worked to slowly move away from the obvious solutions to more creative ones as it progressed, and I found myself really struggling to guess what the puzzles were looking for.

Unfortunately, the addition of adjectives opens up more of the word recognition problems I encountered in the first game. While most of the levels are smartly designed, letting you be very creative with your words, there are instances where some solutions that should work simply do not. The newly required adjective parings sometimes seemed to only add to this issue. There were several times where I tried writing an adjective only to find that the game crossed it out (in red, like an error!) and only created the standard item instead.

The trick with Super Scribblenauts is to keep it simple and not get too crazy with your solutions. In most cases the obvious answer is usually the best one, which is sad because it feels like your creativity is being limited a bit. For example, one of the early stages has a stressed out skydiver looking to get off a cliff. You can help him by creating the obvious, a parachute. The beloved jetpack also works. But I thought I'd be nice and send the guy on a scenic air balloon ride. While you can certainly create a hot air balloon, it doesn't work as a solution. The guy will jump into it, but maybe it's not his thing -- he just floats there. 

It's not that the addition of adjectives is a bad one. It's quite the opposite, actually. With them the puzzles are easily more engaging than in the first game, and it's apparent that the designers had a lot of fun with some of the puzzles here. Some of the best (and hardest!) require you to figure out the similarities between on-screen objects and then create something in the same category to proceed. One early one asked for an object that matched characteristics shared between a vampire, helicopter, leech and robin. Think about that one for a minute! The stages that don't work as well are mere hiccups in the scheme of things. There's simply too many fun stages to enjoy to spend time griping about the ones that don't work as well. I still find myself wishing there was a bit more interactivity with your created items, but I guess this would take the game beyond the puzzle realm and into the action realm. 

 

One change that we all can agree is definitely for the better is the addition of button control options. Instead of stylus movement, you can opt to move Maxwell around with either the d-pad or the face buttons. Note that you'll still use the stylus to place items on screen and type out words, but now getting around is a bit less rough.

You may find differently, or not really think much about it, but I really dislike the music in Super Scribblenauts. Most of it is annoyingly repetitive, cloying fluff that it sounds like the composer spent very little time or energy on. The level complete song's melody reminds me of the chorus to Juice Newton's classic "Queen of Hearts," and not in a good way. 

If you go into Super Scribblenauts knowing that you'll be playing a really cute and creative version of guessing game then you'll have a great time. If you enjoyed the first game you'll have a great time with this sequel. Those looking for action and adventure are going to need to look elsewhere, as will those looking for puzzles that will test their brains.

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)






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