Super Scribblenauts

Review

posted 11/12/2010 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: DS
At first I was really into the puzzle solving.  I wasn't limited to just making a dog, I could add color, size and shape to the object for my own amusement.  But once the novelty wore off, I realized that instead of playing a real puzzle game, I was basically just answering trivia questions.  Even if the game didn't ask me a direct question, I always felt like they were testing me on how many words and objects I could name.

In one level it will show you four different people, each with their own look and style.  The object here is to put on clothing, accessories and objects that would appeal to these four disparate characters.  That's all well and good, but it's not exactly the most exciting puzzle.  The fact that you are forced to perform this style of puzzle multiple times (even more if you're looking to get the highest scores) really drags down the good times.

There are some levels that do challenge you to use your imagination, but they are few and far between.  In one level you are tasked with helping a movie director add scary objects to the set.  The idea here is simple enough, come up with as many objects as you can think of, but add words like "spooky," "ghostly," "haunted" and "undead" as you can.  Even though this level is limited, at least it gives you some creative control over the game.  Too much of Super Scribblenauts feels like I'm being tested by a bunch of people who aren't playing by the rules.

It only takes a few puzzles to realize how limiting the game is.  Once I started thinking outside the box, I was met with firm resistance from the game.  Worse yet, the game is rarely logical.  The only times I got stumped playing Super Scribblenauts is when the developers threw logic out the window.  I would find myself staring at the Nintendo DS screen trying to figure out why the easiest answer wasn't the right one.   Why won't the alarm clock wake up the sleeping man?  Why can't I feed my dog a slab of meat?  Why won't the stranded man get in the boat?

As I kept slamming my head against invisible walls, I started to get a better understanding of what is really possible in the Scribblenauts world.  There's no question that the concept is great, but there's not enough logic behind it to offer a truly satisfying experience.  Although this game definitely hints at a bright future for the series, I couldn't shake the feeling that it's just not a good fit on the Nintendo DS.  I wonder if some of the logic issues would be resolved if it was working on something more powerful, like the PC or maybe even the upcoming Nintendo 3DS.

Another reason I would like to see this series migrate to the PC is simply for ease of use.  I don't care who you are, typing lengthy words on the Nintendo DS screen is far from ideal.  The game does offer a few shortcuts to keep the typing to a minimum, but there's nothing better than using your own real keyboard to speed things up.  When it comes right down to it, this is a minor complaint.  My real issue with Super Scribblenauts has nothing to do with the controls; it's the shallowness of the puzzle mode.

When you're not being suffocated by the game's lousy campaign, you can develop your own levels.  In this mode you're able to do whatever you want and really put the game's engine to work.  This is by far the most compelling aspect of the game, since it allows you to really use your vocabulary.  There's nothing better than typing in random internet memes and game characters to see what you come up with.

As much as I want to love Super Scribblenauts, I can't overlook its many faults.  It's clear that 5th Cell hasn't figured out the balance between open creativity and puzzle solving.  Here we're subjected to boring levels with only a few right answers.  The mediocre campaign sucks most of the fun out of the game, leaving us with yet another close call.  Maybe the third time will be the charm? 


* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

B-
Scribblenauts returns with yet another disappointing puzzler. 5th Cell manages to get the control right, but the terrible campaign and limited puzzles drag everything down. There are remnnants of good ideas here, but Super Scribblenauts doesn't deliver on its promise.


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