Super Scribblenauts

Review

posted 11/12/2010 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: DS
It's a shame we can't review games based on how much we want to enjoy them.  Just imagine how much more exciting my reviews would be if I was reviewing that feeling right before actually playing the game.  If that was the case, then Super Scribblenauts would be the game of the year.  It's a creative puzzler that is overflowing with potential.  The gimmick alone should be enough to pique most gamers' interest.  Too bad the gimmick isn't good enough to sustain an entire game.

The concept is genius.  You play a young red-haired boy going from level to level solving puzzles using words.  This young boy has a talent -- he can make everyday items magically materialize just by spelling it out.  This simple game mechanic allows the player to create literally tens of thousands of objects at the touch of a button.  If you can think it, the game can generate it.  This simple gameplay mechanic should lead to one of the most inspired puzzle games on the Nintendo DS.

If I seem hesitant, it's because I was burned by the first game.  The original Scribblenauts had everything going for it, but was marred by terrible gameplay and a general lack of polish.  Even worse, one could make a strong argument that the action levels were outright broken.  With so much of the game flawed, I finally gave up on Scribblenauts.  I hoped that the developers would take the constructive criticism and craft a better sequel, because the core game mechanic was that intriguing.

Thankfully 5th Cell was listening.  The company addressed nearly all of the standard complaints people had with the original game, crafting a technically impressive follow-up.  Players no longer have to put up with stylus-only controls, movement controls have been mapped to the D-pad and face buttons.  The developers also excised the broken action levels, instead featuring a more puzzle-oriented campaign.

Super Scribblenauts does more than fix the past mistakes; it also adds something new to the game mechanic.  This time around players are able to add adjectives to the object they are trying to make.  This gives players the ability to specify color and size.  And if you get really creative, you can make objects fly, turn them evil and modify them in truly horrifying ways.  I quickly discovered that adding adjectives was overwhelming; the mind boggles at how many combinations there are.

With the improved controls and cool new additions to the gameplay, it seemed like this series was finally getting it right.  And that's when the other shoe dropped.  It didn't take long before I realized that in addressing all of the first game's issues, 5th Cell ended up creating a number of brand new problems. What we're left with is yet another game with a lot of untapped potential.

The story is simple enough; you're tasked with solving a bunch of puzzles in order to fill in a series of star constellations.  Much like the first game, your mission is to figure out a way to earn the Starite.  As soon as you jump into a level the game will give you a clue, such as "Give your new friend a pet."  This allows you to open up the typing tool and spell out a word that would help solve the puzzle, including "dog," "cat" or "bird."  If the computer thinks that's an acceptable answer, then you're off to the next stage.
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