reviews\ Nov 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Super Scribblenauts review


When Scribblenauts launched on the Nintendo DS last year, gamers didn’t know what to expect. Countless puzzlers had promised unique gameplay but left a lot to be desired in the end. Surprisingly, Scribblenauts managed to impress gamers with its massive dictionary of nouns and focus on creativity, which allowed for offbeat solutions to most of the game’s puzzles. Fast forward a year later, and we now have Super Scribblenauts. This time around, 5th Cell has improved the control scheme greatly and implemented adjectives into the game’s massive dictionary.

Playground, a sandbox area that precedes the file select screen, is an exciting introduction to the title. Here you are likely to write something such as “giant winged striped couch” on the game’s keyboard, only to see the strange creation appear before your very eyes. And if you’re wondering, yes, you can sit on this couch and ride it through the sky. That’s one of the things that makes Super Scribblenauts so impressive. The majority of what you write will appear in the game, so long as it’s not explicit or offensive. The introduction of adjectives greatly encourages even more creativity than before.

Sadly, that encouragement is taken away all too soon. The moment you start playing Super Scribblenauts, you realize that it is more of a guessing game than an avenue for creative thinking. This is because the game demands specific solutions to most of its brain teasers. One such puzzle requires you to find three gold nuggets. Rather than allowing you to explore by using your imagination, you must specifically dig for one gold nugget, use a mining tool on some rocks for another, and conjure up a pan while standing by a pond for the third. These types of puzzles are found throughout the game, and they keep the experience from ever becoming as fun as it should be.

Another limiting aspect is the game’s collection of adjective-based levels. These stages usually have a group of people, animals, or objects, and it is your job come up with something that combines elements from all of these things. One example of this is a level that shows a bear, an ape, a teepee, and a mobile home. Writing “furry home” solves this puzzle, and while a furry home is pretty original, the fact that the game is forcing you to think within its boundaries is a huge letdown.

One great addition to the game is the objectives system that requires you to complete multiple tasks in a handful of the game’s puzzles. One level has you playing the part of a secret agent. First, you must gain access to a classy party by dressing Maxwell up in a suit. After gaining access to the party, you must rendezvous with your contact and obtain a key card. After obtaining the item, you must shut down the building’s surveillance system, steal some documents, and take off in a motorboat. Levels like these add a nice spin on the Scribblenauts formula. Unfortunately, even some of these stages suffer from specificity issues.

The Level Editor mode in Super Scribblenauts is robust and allows you to create a number of different level types. You can whip up protection missions, team-based brawls, and even a new Playground stage if you get tired of the title screens included in the game. As cool as it is to create levels, though, even your own mastermind concoctions suffer from design flaws. If you share levels with friends, they may have a hard time deciphering them due to the fact that they’ll need to summon exact objects for solving your puzzles as well.

Visually, Super Scribblenauts looks similar to its predecessor, so expect to see bright, colorful levels and tons of charming characters. The sound design is also on par with the first game’s and features all of the songs from the original Scribblenauts as well as a few new tracks. If you were fond of the look and sound of 5th Cell's first Scribblenauts game, you’re bound to enjoy the presentation in Super Scribblenauts.

Super Scribblenauts poses a number of great additions to the formula introduced by its predecessor. The introduction of adjectives, multiple objectives, and D-Pad controls is definitely welcome. Sadly, the game’s constant emphasis on thinking within the box makes Super Scribblenauts a lot less enjoyable than the first. You’re bound to have some fun with this title, but the guessing game design of Super Scribblenauts doesn’t mesh well with its word-based gameplay. The tools for a compelling game are there, but Super Scribblenauts doesn’t utilize them properly, making this game feel like a victim of wasted potential.

Above Average

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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