Saturday, November 13, 2010

Super Scribblenauts Review.

The original Scribblenauts presented an innovative, new concept: Think of nearly any object, type the word into your DS, and watch as it materializes to assist in solving a puzzle. The end result was a game with an interesting idea, but funky physics, jagged edges, and challenges that could usually be solved by typing "helicopter" kept the title from feeling like much more than a novelty. Thankfully, Super Scribblenauts addresses nearly every flaw from the first game and adds enough in the way of new features to finally live up to its potential.


You won't find a staggering new story premise within the 120 puzzles contained in Super Scribblenauts. Much like the first game, you lead cartoony protagonist Max through a series of levels with nothing more than the intent of capturing a shiny Starite in order to progress -- Unlike the first game, however, you won't get bored playing through them all. Super Scribblenauts manages to keep the puzzles engaging, with a few exceptions, thanks in no small part to its new feature: adjectives.

If you've played Scribblenauts before, you undoubtedly spent some portion of time just screwing around in the game's start menu. What other game allows you to finally answer the age-old question, "Could a zombie fight a brontosaurus?" Now, thanks to the power of descriptive language, it's possible to pit "crusty zombie Ben Franklin" versus a "floating robotic brontosaurus." Sure, creating weird, random freaks of nature is fun all on its own, but the feature really shines in the new adjective-specific puzzles. Adjective puzzles require you to complete a challenge while utilizing descriptive language. For instance, one such level has Max facing off against a monster-creating witch; her monsters can only be defeated by spawning an adversary that utilizes a directly opposite adjective, i.e. a tiny werewolf defeats a giant troll. I found these new adjective puzzles far more entertaining than the game's other levels, as they're efficient at forcing you to think more creatively in terms of your word choice.

That's not to say that the game's other levels are sub-par. Like the original, Super Scribblenauts' levels are split between "get Max to the Starite" platform-influenced action and finding a solution or combination of items that will make the Starite magically appear. But while they're similar in structure, the substance and mechanics of the puzzles feel greatly improved. The original Scribblenauts was plagued with what I call "jet pack syndrome." Basically, what's the point of going through an elaborate series of actions in order to solve a puzzle, when you can just strap on a jet pack and be done with it? There are exceptions, but generally speaking, the puzzles in Super Scribblenauts will require more thought than attaching a rocket to Max's back. Even the occasional, exceptionally easy puzzle is usually offset by the difficulty of a returning "advanced mode," which becomes unlocked after a level's completion."

If a level proves too devious, however, Super Scribblenauts also includes a new hint system. Hints are acquired through purchase using the game's currency ("ollars"), or unlock after a set period of time has passed. Personally, I never found myself using the hints, but that's probably due more to my own stubbornness than a judgment on the game's difficulty. A number of the game's puzzles require some abstract thinking, so the inclusion of a hint system is a welcome addition if only to broaden the game's appeal to a much younger audience.

The game isn't completely without its flaws. Sprites are only marginally less jagged-looking than before, and occasionally words that should work just don't. This becomes particularly frustrating when the game is unnecessarily finicky with adjective selection. During one level in particular, I was completely baffled as to why the phrase "friendly doctor" was not satisfying the puzzle. As it turned out, the game was looking for a "smart doctor." Those issues are rare, however, and seem rather minor in light of the improvements 5th Cell has made with this sequel. Gone are the wonky physics (a mountain doesn't just roll over like a tumbleweed any longer), the awkward controls (you can use the d-pad to control Max), and weird object collision (items placed in the game seem to have a sense of depth now).

In the end, Super Scribblenauts is an interesting, engaging, witty game that takes full advantage of its portable platform's strengths. The Nintendo DS' game library is filled with titles that attempt to serve out entertainment in bite-sized chunks, but I dare say few have achieved this level of originality and enjoyment. It's not that Super Scribblenauts has completely reinvented the portable puzzle game, it just comes close to perfecting the franchise's own innovative take upon it.

9.0/10

13 comments:

  1. this sounds like a good game! I would try it out if I had a DS!

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  2. My wife loves games like that!!!

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  3. heha, never actually seen this game but looks fun

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  4. Good review, you should do other console reviews aswell ^_^

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  5. lol i never seen this game before...maybe i have to look for it - it sounds nice!

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  6. Gotta find an emulator for this one...

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  7. Not really into these types of games.

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  8. I didnt like the first for everything you just said there so I'm defently going to give this new game a shot. Nice review.

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  9. love this game, you can do so much

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  10. Sweet review, bro. I didn't like the first one due to it's lack of word choice and it's boring graphics. This one seems interesting. Thanks for reviewing this game.

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