Super Scribblenauts

October 20, 2010

Last year developer 5th Cell unleashed perhaps the most ambitious title of the year for the DS in Scribblenauts; its tagline was “Write anything. Solve everything,” and for the most part the innovative dictionary-come-to-life system delivered on that end of the promise. Where the game fell far short of expectations, however, was in an awkward user interface when it came to moving Maxwell (your avatar), haphazard physics, and a par system that was meant to encourage you to maximize your efficiency but instead wound up stifling creativity and essentially forcing multiple level restarts. In my review I called it “a hard game to recommend, and equally hard to dismiss.” A year and change has passed since then; I would like to revise that statement to “don’t bother with the original version; get the sequel instead.” 

The team at 5th Cell, because they are awesome, actually listened to the complaints; their recent release of Super Scribblenauts addresses just about all of them. You no longer move Maxwell with the stylus (unless you want to for some reason; they included the option for both), the camera no longer snaps back on Maxwell after a period of time, objects no longer bounce off each other like they were all made of galvanized rubber, and there are no more “attach points” on each object to hunt for when trying to connect one with another. There is no longer a par on any level, allowing you to plumb the depths of your imagination more freely when it comes to finding a solution (and not penalizing you when an object does not appear as you might have expected), and the stages themselves unlock naturally without needing to spend Ollars (now basically only used to purchase new avatars). It’s worth noting that everything that “worked” the first time was mostly retained, including the sandbox title screen.

But Super Scribblenauts isn’t just about releasing a “patched” version of its predecessor. As somewhat implied by the title, the major addition this time around is adjectives. While the original recognized a few (mostly size-related), Super Scribblenauts recognizes approximately five hundred. And you can chain them — so if you really want, say, a “giant purple fire-breathing zombie cat,” go right ahead. The bulk of the game is the type of level formerly labeled “puzzle” in the original game (there are two stages of bonus “action” levels), some of which are designated specifically to flex some adjective muscle via abstract math (e.g., “funny man + rainbow wig = clown”). Only specific levels are available for “replay mode,” which challenges you to complete the level three times without repeating words. Without the frustrations of the original title, the levels in Super Scribblenauts seem to fly by; I completed all of them in the space of a few days, and there are over 100 of them all told (I replayed about half of them, too).

This is the game that 5th Cell valiantly tried to deliver last year. This is the game that fulfills almost all of the impossible, bottomless promise of the original. It’s still not quite perfect, especially when it comes to what is and is not an acceptable solution for certain levels, but it will do. The slogan may have changed slightly to “Create anything. Solve everything,” but the potential for fun remains the same.

Pros: All of the complaints about the original? Pretty much addressed, including and especially the controls and camera.

Cons: Sometimes cryptic about what is and is not an acceptable for a solution to some puzzles.


Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.