DS

North America

Super Scribblenauts

by Zachary Miller - October 25, 2010, 3:53 pm PDT
Total comments: 4

8

More of the same, but marginally improved.

When Scribblenauts came out last year, everybody loved the concept but hated the execution. The player typed words into the game to spawn just about anything to help solve puzzles. Need to kill a rampaging monster? Equip your character (Maxwell) with a flamethrower, or call Cthulhu. Need to get somewhere in a hurry? Equip a jetpack. Unfortunately, the game had some major problems: certain combinations or objects were "win" buttons, and some of the AI didn't make any sense (the famous beephobic beekeeper comes to mind). Most egregious, however, were the game's touch-only controls, which made moving Maxwell and interacting with objects an unenjoyable chore. Super Scribblenauts is about as much of a sequel as Wii Fit Plus was to Wii Fit, but it improves the basic formula and adds adjectives to the party. The game still has some problems that affect the game moderately, but it's certainly a better product than its predecessor.

The biggest improvement is with the control method. Maxwell can now move and jump with the D-pad and face buttons. He'll still need you to use the stylus to interact with anything, but I'm not going to complain, because that works fine. The other "improvement" is the implementation of adjectives, which are sadly only situationally useful. Their enormous potential is tempered a great deal by the fact that there are only specific "Adjective Puzzles" that utilize them in meaningful ways. In every other puzzle, a pink flamingo will be just as effective as a green metal flamingo. Now, the Adjective Puzzles usually are interesting. In one memorable example, you are doing battle with a witch who spawns monsters. Her monsters can only be defeated by monsters with opposite adjectives and... you know... some brawn. It's a good exercise in creativity. Other times, a potentially interesting puzzle becomes frustrating because you don’t know exactly what the game wants you to do. This is actually a pervasive problem in Super Scribblenauts, and becomes the focal point of my frustration with the title.

Here's an example. Man minus time equals what? Baby? No. Boy? No. Teenager? No. Young man? Okay, yes. It accepts "Young Man," but then you're given the challenge of solving the same puzzle three more times without repeating terms. How many other ways are there of saying "Young Man?" Not many, it turns out, especially since the game blocks your attempts at using synonyms. What's bizarre is that synonymy isn't a huge sin in other puzzles - some actively encourage you to use synonymy. So when inconsistency reared its head, I became puzzled and frustrated. Another puzzle asks you to cause the extinction of the dinosaurs, but anything you do that actively kills them individually is blocked. What you're really being asked to do is kill them all at once, but the game doesn't do a good job of telling you that. Try acid rain or volcanism for an accurate representation of the end Cretaceous extinction event!

However, the problematic puzzles, are far outnumbered by the fun and engaging examples. Some of them have multiple steps, which are my favorites such as: save Maxwell from getting the plague, then get a rat to a scientist so she can develop a cure, then deliver the cure to a little girl. If you're having trouble, you can look at three hints. The latter two are purchased with Ollars gained from solving puzzles and coming up with new words. You can also use Ollars to purchase new avatars (replacing Maxwell).

The game also features an overly complicated "create-a-puzzle" mode. The menu system isn't entirely intuitive, and it takes a long time to build something. Once you're done though, you can upload your creation via Nintendo WFC, as well as download other people's puzzles. Also, in case you're curious, the game does feature a variety of different dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Allosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus, among others. From a dinosaur fanboy's point of view, this is a huge plus.

Super Scribblenauts is ultimately very similar to the first game. If you loved it, you’ll likely get a lot out of this level pack. If you've never played Scribblenauts but you're curious, it's this game you should invest in, rather than its predecessor.

Summary

Pros
  • Adjectives for increased puzzle potential
  • Improved D-pad controls
  • Lots of puzzle variety
Cons
  • Game isn't always good about telling you what you should be doing
  • Inconsistency with synonym use
  • Level creator is overly complex

Talkback

thatguyOctober 25, 2010

Don't forget, you can only save eight stages with the "create-a-puzzle" mode, severely restraining the whole "share" concept there.

vuduOctober 26, 2010

Quote:

Super Scribblenauts is ultimately very similar to the first game. If you loved it, you’ll likely get a lot out of this level pack. If you've never played Scribblenauts but you're curious, it's this game you should invest in, rather than its predecessor.

What if I loved the idea of the first game but absolutely hated the execution (controls, puzzles, everything)?  Is game still worth checking out or should I skip it completely?

Like I said, it's more like a level pack than an actual sequel. The controls are better, and some of the adjective puzzles are cool, but...maybe not?

So what you're saying is that it's a semi-decent improvement over the original Scribblenauts. Trouble is, it sounds as though the addition of adjectives, the 'major new feature' according to 5th Cell, is just another toy for the sandbox. Fair enough, you say there are a few levels that require imaginative thinking with the adjectives, that's fine, but aren't there supposed to be over 10,000 of them? Does the game come close to effectively utilising even 1/20th of the adjectives? I'm willing to bet it does not, and chances are, the tool will probably be used in sandbox mode on the Start menu by those who want to make weird objects.

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Genre Puzzle
Developer 5th Cell
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Super Scribblenauts
Release Q3 2010
PublisherWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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