Game Review

Super Scribblenauts Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Zach Kaplan

Word

We've always had to accept that in video games, there will always be more objects we want to play with than those we're allowed to use. The original Scribblenauts changed all of that, allowing the virtual world to become a malleable, ever-changing playground. You solved simple objectives in search of a Starite, manifesting any object that its over 22,000-word strong vocabulary could understand, but the imprecise stylus-only controls made manoeuvring Maxwell feel loose and the experience fell short of expectations. Now comes its sequel, Super Scribblenauts, making some much-needed improvements but doing little else to change the formula.

The gameplay revolves around solving challenges ranging from simple tasks like filling a classroom with different classroom-esque items to more complex tasks, like infiltrating a wedding, stealing a gift and escaping unnoticed. The real fun, however, is still in seeing just what the game will recognise as a valid entry and how these things will interact. Will a vegetarian eat a pork-chop? What happens when two messiahs get together? You can keep going on to seemingly infinity, again including a variety of animals, plants and mythological creatures only an expert would think up as well as pirate sharks, large hadron colliders, keyboard cats and RickRolls. You'll still come across your fair share of similar or identical objects, but this is never enough to hamper the experience. Now the fun is augmented by adjectives, and you can apply up to ten to each object. Can a fat angry evil hairy Abraham Lincoln destroy a meek irritable vegetarian Cthulu? No, of course not, but it's a lot of fun to watch it play out. So is ascribing the adjective "haunted" to just about anything. There's lots of other fun stuff, too, every unpredictable object another possible Easter Egg-like event; for example, to where does Maxwell teleport when he uses a teleporter? Well, it involves a lot of scientists running from a lot of monsters.

Navigating through levels is more streamlined and visually appealing than in the original, mapping them out among constellations and combining action levels (get the Starite) and challenge levels (do something to make the Starite appear) rather than keeping them separate, never actually calling them by these labels that players of the original will recognise. Adjective levels are also thrown into the mix, usually requiring you to complete a sequence – something like placing a hairy house between a gorilla and a building, or completing the sequence "man" minus "time" equals "new man."

It's unfortunate that adjectives never have a more integral role in the gameplay than this, however – while they sometimes come into play in regular levels, you'll rarely need them for anything more subtle. This makes their implementation seem a bit shallow at times in objective-based gameplay, though they can still make for a lot of fun when just messing around. There are also a lot of situations in which you'll have to think of what the game wants you to do rather than trying out any solution that you can imagine. In the above "new man" situation, for example, using a "new baby" wasn't specific enough, though it was our first logical conclusion. In another example, to "make friends with the alien," we tried giving it an astral valentine, a cosmic brownie and, trying a more straightforward approach, an alien valentine, but nothing worked. Thankfully, Super Scribblenauts includes a helpful hint system, letting you unlock these with the plentiful Ollars you'll earn along the way. It turns out that we needed to introduce an earthly ambassador into the mix. These were far from the only situations in which we were tasked to find something specific that the developers had in mind rather than utilise our own unbridled creativity to solve the puzzle.

The original game featured 220 stages, and while a great many of those included here are more complex and involve multiple steps, there are just 120 at your disposal, providing for a somewhat brief experience. While some of these will certainly task your noggin, especially if you can avoid the tempting hints, it's still somewhat uncommon to face a very difficult challenge. A deeper issue is the fact that about half of them are at their core rather uninteresting – for every "spook your friends" or "defeat the monster," there's a "fill the classroom" or "throw a beach party," essentially having you list items that you associate with certain locations, or some such task.

The biggest improvement over the original Scribblenauts is in the controls. Before, you could only control Maxwell by clicking a spot on the screen with the stylus and watching him somewhat clumsily walk there, making precise puzzles a frustrating chore. While this is still an option, you can now play with the much-preferable arrow buttons, allowing for a more intuitive scheme that will keep Maxwell from falling into the water when you want him to jump to an above ledge. The physics are also much improved, making everything feel more natural and giving things a more realistic sense of weight. You can still type in words either by clicking letters on an on-screen keyboard or through handwriting recognition one letter at a time, but the former method is a lot quicker and more accurate. As before, it also includes a button for recalling the last few things you've entered, which comes in handy with all of those adjectives you won't have to re-type.

Super Scribblenauts also includes a complex level creator, which is much improved over that of the original game. Everything comes in streamlined menus and feels more accessible and far less clunky than before. Again, you can connect to your friend's DS using Wi-Fi or a local wireless connection to share your creations.

The game uses the same graphical and audio design as before with no marked improvements. Everything is presented in a colourful paper-doll style accompanied by fun, inoffensive but unremarkable tunes, and it really fits the imaginative gameplay style well.

Conclusion

In spite of marked control improvements, Super Scribblenauts doesn't provide a much varied experience from its predecessor. The implementation of adjectives augments the sandbox sense of imaginative fun, but doesn't change the gameplay very integrally and won't revive the original's sense of wonder for those familiar with it. Of course, this won't be a problem for those new to the series. The levels are generally a bit more complex in their framework but in a far fewer number than before, and a great percentage of them feel thin and shallow. While shortcomings keep the game from ever reaching its full potential, though, it's still a heck of a lot of fun. It's closer to Scribblenauts 1.5 than a full-blown sequel, but it's still a great experience – it just feels more like what we should have gotten the first time around than a brand new game in itself.

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Game Trailer

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment releases a new trailer showing the descriptive updates in Super Scribblenauts for the DS

User Comments (45)

Deviant_Mugen

#2

Deviant_Mugen said:

Great review, Zach. I'm enjoying the first Scribblenauts, but the controls definitely do leave something to be desired, so I'll probably pick this game up eventually...

CorbsAdmin

#4

Corbs said:

Awesome review Zach! Eventually I plan to pry this away from my wife and give it a shot. Maybe in 2012 when things have slowed down. :D

warioswoods

#5

warioswoods said:

While I've had great fun with the adjectives and other basic improvements, I have to say that the levels in this game are mostly uninspired and terribly restrictive. To be honest, I would much prefer to just play through the levels from the first game using the improved engine. As it stands, the main menu and custom level creator are the only parts I enjoy. Easier online sharing of levels (like MvsDK) would have also greatly helped.

triforceofcourage

#7

triforceofcourage said:

really good. but the levels could be a bit better. :(
still great though. but i could go on forever with ths type of gameplay.
i would buy super scribblenauts2 with the exact same controls and everything but just redesigned levels.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#9

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Played it addictively ever since I bought it. Loved the 1st game but acknowledged the control issues which this cures. Some of the word play levels with adjectives have odd thinking but once you get used to the thinking its ok. I've completed the "main game" and I am on the S levels. However, I had to break off for Sonic wii and ds!.

9/10 for me all the way...massively interesting and compulsive game..kind of like the ultimate puzzle video game and a lot more.

SuperMarioFan96

#10

SuperMarioFan96 said:

At first I thought this was absolutely amazing. Like, AMAZING. And it kind of still is. But the levels are often a bit restrictive and the adjectives are under utilized in the main game. However, I still enjoyed the main gameplay a bit, and the title screen (thanks to adjectives) is worth the price of this game by itself IMO.

Great review Zach! And I'm glad this came out so late. If you wrote it within a few days of getting it you probably would have thought it was amazing and given it a 9 (possibly even debating a 10) like I did.

The_Fox

#11

The_Fox said:

Scribblenauts seems to be on of those cooler in idea than in execution type of games.

CanisWolfred

#12

CanisWolfred said:

I'll be getting this someday, if I don't convince my bro to get it. He likes the concept at least.

bro2dragons

#13

bro2dragons said:

i agree with this review exactly. i never even played the first, but bought this first day, and even i feel like it's the game the first should have been. it's great fun, but too short and too easy... but not an experience i regret in the least! :)

Gavin_Rozee

#15

Gavin_Rozee said:

I was going to get Scribblenauts, then the sequel was announced so I waited it out.

Would it be fair to add another point onto the score considering I never played the first?

Kid_A

#16

Kid_A said:

Nice review. This game was definitely a disappointment for me; the controls are better, but the puzzles are so one-dimensional that you can complete most of them without even moving from the starting position. I traded it in for Red Dead Redemption. Smart move ;)

Hokori

#17

Hokori said:

its a sandbox game and I can just mooch off my friends who get it and play it for what I want

Odnetnin

#19

Odnetnin said:

A) "Word," really? :D
B) I expected the 8.
C) You have helped me in my decision to not get this for Christmas, thanks.

Zach

#20

Zach said:

@fishman While the design is more complex, the ingredients really aren't, if that makes any sense. You may be asked to perform a ten step process, but few of those steps should be especially trying.

Dodger

#21

Dodger said:

I loved it. I loved the first one though. The controls work better, the sandbox mode is more fun and the level creator is better. I was a bit disappointed at some of the adjectives. I would of liked to see more creativity instead of sticking a clown nose on everything that is clownish, etc. I guess it is asking a lot with how many items they have but it still is good for a lot of fun.

To be honest though, I didn't like the levels as much. By adding flying, rideable or diving to any object, you can multitask and remove a lot of strategy that was in the first game from having wings and jet packs not last forever. I also didn't like that guns had unlimited ammo and there was no item par. I liked trying to plan out my item use to use the fewest items. I still had fun but I liked the more platforming based levels of 1 better then the puzzle based levels of 2. I still really recommend it.

Funny thing is, Scribblenauts was my first DS game and Super Scribblenauts may just be my last. I'm not seeing too much I want so I'm putting my money towards a 3DS.

Overall, I would probably give it an 8 based on the way the game works but a 9 based on the fun I had with it. I've spent hours at a time on the sandbox mode for both games. After playing it, I would buy it. (It was a birthday gift.)

Punny

#25

Punny said:

This is one to hit my DS this holiday!

Oh, and Otaku, you are sneaky. :)

RantingThespian

#26

RantingThespian said:

I expected the same puzzle game with more words and better controls. That's actually all I wanted out of Super Scribblenaughts. The first was great, so that means (to me) this one's amazing!

Xiao_Pai

#27

Xiao_Pai said:

Yeah...the first game was ok...but it got boring for me very quickly. So, I'm gonna have to say the same as i8cookie and Dragoon.

Big_A2

#28

Big_A2 said:

For those of you who didn't like the first game, I highly recommend giving the series a second chance. This game is what the first one should have been like. I'm glad they didn't try and change what was good about the first too much either, although the adjective system defiantly makes the whole experience more interesting, and the improved levels are cleverer and won’t be as easy and boring the “feed the kid” missions the first game had. At the moment, it's a 9/10 from me too.

Link-Hero

#29

Link-Hero said:

I got bored with the first one real quickly, which surprised me. The premise is pretty cool, but the levels just got repetitive. I'm worried that I'm going to go through that problem again with the sequel, so I'm just going to skip out on this one.

Xiao_Pai

#30

Xiao_Pai said:

Yeah, basically what Link Hero said, chances are the same thing is going to happen with me on the sequel. It was fun for a while, but got boring quickly...

MrB4

#31

MrB4 said:

Man, I've been so far behind in my gameplay as of late, never finished the first title, and can't wait to try out the improved controls in this version.

LuWiiGi

#32

LuWiiGi said:

On the first Scribblenauts, did you all seriously control Maxwell by tapping the screen? Here's a tip: try holding the stylus on the screen and dragging to move. It's much easier and much more accurate. I always wondered why people hated the controls so much. So, @soccer686, no, you're not the only one. Also, while I've never played this, I find it hard to believe that this is only an 8. It was a great review, but surely the sandbox screen and level editor merit a 9 on their own?

Zach

#33

Zach said:

Thanks for the nice comments people, glad you enjoyed the review!

@LuWiiGi We all did this as well, but for most of us, this still wasn't accurate enough. I for one didn't think the old controls ruined the first game but even holding down the stylus is somewhat imprecise, and once you try the new ones, you'll notice a big difference for the better, not to mention the improved physics. As for the score, this was definitely an 8 through and through, in other words "very good" as a great percentage of the missions are very thin and one-dimensional, not to mention that there are about half as many as before. The sandbox screen and level editor are great, but not enough to sustain the game on their own. An 8 is still a strong recommendation, however.

NintenDude97

#34

NintenDude97 said:

I'm looking forward to getting this for Christmas. I had the first Scribblenauts but lost it so now this will serve as a sort of a replacement.

CaptainDingo

#35

CaptainDingo said:

While the level editor is improved over the original game, it's still not much. Making something unique or complex isn't really possible. Half the cool levels you play in the game you can't actually make using the level editor or even come close to making, so that definitely hurts the replay. Your level ideas have to be very strictly constrained in the rules for the game type you're making.

Probably 50% of the levels aren't particularly fun; they're often matching games using adjectives rather than platforming and improvising. Most of the fun you'll have is probably in the premade levels that are fun and can be done multiple ways, and in coming up with wacky stuff to create in the sandbox mode (like a giant crying fat short undead panda, or whatever).

I'd say the same about Super Scribblenauts as I did about Scribblenauts, it's a seriously awesome idea that needs some better execution behind it.

rhythmheavenfan

#36

rhythmheavenfan said:

I really love the creativity that was put into these games, but I felt that the adjectives were underutilized in this one and it didn't really feel all that better than the first one.

xPOTATOx

#37

xPOTATOx said:

The controls are just fine in this game, I got it for this Christmas, its really fun! _

xxx_Kirby_xxx

#39

xxx_Kirby_xxx said:

I'm glad they fixed Scribblenauts. :) I love the fact you can use adjectives and that you can fly for longer with the wings etc. I love using the word colossal. Epic game! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. Still exploring all the stuff you can do, time machine, teleporter, etc. It's fun as. :) I'd give it 10/10 just because I loved Scribblenauts so much and the new features enhance it so much. :D

atariman

#44

atariman said:

it should be a 9/10 in my opinion. its a very silly and funny game. but it can be a very hard game. each level has its own difficulty. help maxwell win.

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