'Super Scribblenauts' Review - The Pen Is Mightier Than The Older Pen

Last year, developer 5th Cell and publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment released "Scribblenauts," an innovative little puzzle game for Nintendo DS. Using a magic in-game pen, players were able to conjure up any non-licensed animal, vegetable or mineral they could think of, all in the name of solving the game's numerous and varied mini-challenges. The result was mostly successful, though the experience was marred by a number of unusual design choices. Now 5th Cell is back with "Super Scribblenauts," a true sequel in the sense that it is essentially what we played last year, only there's more of it and it's been improved.

The Basics

Maxwell and his magic pen are back. That's really all you need to know. If you played "Scribblenauts" then you're already aware that there's no story to speak of. Just a bunch of puzzles. In this outing, once all of a particular stage's puzzles have been solved they together form a star constellation. It doesn't matter in the end though. The game you're playing is fundamentally unchanged: Maxwell is dropped into one environment or another with his magic pen and a need to acquire the particular challenge's Starite. The more Starites you collect, the more puzzles you unlock. It's a simple idea which gives way to some truly complex puzzles.

The Highs

If It Ain't Broke...

As stated above, the basic idea behind the game remains unchanged. Maxwell's challenges range from simply figuring out the right items to create to navigating through a maze-like environment to setting up a elaborate domino effect that Rube Goldberg would go nuts for. Type a word in and the game spits out that item. Finish a level to earn a silver crown; get a gold one by finishing the level three more times without re-using any words.

If It IS Broke...

The difficulty of making Maxwell move around was one of the chief complaints targeted at "Scribblenauts." This has been fixed. Instead of a point-and-click interface (which is still available as an option), players can now use either the D-pad or the face buttons as left-right-jump directional controls for Maxwell.

Expanded Vocabulary

The huge dictionary of creatable nouns from the previous "Scribblenauts" is back, and complemented now by an equally huge dictionary of adjectives. You think that "Zombie" you just winked into existence is cool? Well he's no match for my "Giant Diamond Vampiric Zombie." Creations can now be beefed up with a variety of adjectives, altering their properties in important and fundamental ways. Say there's a pit you need to cross, but the flames issuing out of said pit burn too high, putting the bridge you drop down at risk. Instead, create one a "fireproof bridge"!

Social Wordplay

Players now have the ability to create custom levels and share them over Wi-fi. The future is NOW.

The Lows

Size Matters

One of the big issues from the last game that was overlooked in light of the troubles making Maxwell move from point A to point B still remains in "Super Scribblenauts." Created objects appear with a set size and positioning. This can be altered somewhat with the use of adjectives -- "tiny," "small," "short," "long," "giant" and so forth -- but these are often not exact enough. Further, if for example the puzzle you're tasked with solving involves using a fan to blow an object to the right but all fans automatically spawn facing left (they do), you're going to need to drop the fan onto an uneven surface from high up and hope that luck is on your side. Some simple controls for adjusting the size and/or positioning would go a long way towards creating the ideal "Scribblenauts" experience.

Not Enough

The silver/gold crown challenges add plenty of replay value, as they did in the last game. Unfortunately, you've basically reached the end of the game by the time the base level silver crown challenges get truly difficult. What's more, some really obvious words simply aren't recognized. Example: one level asks that you flesh out a scene in a horror movie with adjective-enhanced props and characters. Unfortunately, "Super Scribblenauts" does not recognize "bloody" as an adjective. Seriously?!

The Verdict

It's true that there are things to complain about, but it is equally true that "Super Scribblenauts" is a superlative experience and in every way a better game than its predecessor. If you have any love at all for last year's release, there's simply nothing not to like about the improvements made to this latest entry.