There’s a witch trying to kill you. You don’t know why, but it hardly matters anymore. The only thing you need to worry about is the legions of undead monstrosities she’s summoned to tear you limb from limb. You frantically shuffle through the pages of your magical spellbook, searching for something to save you. You try making a sniper rifle, but it evaporates right out of your hands. What about a tank? It gets shredded before you even get inside. As you step back, cowering and screaming in terror, you remember what you read before starting the fight: Only creatures with opposite adjectives can win! There’s no time to stop and ponder such an arbitrary rule. You quickly summon a Small God, whose electrical holy punches quickly roast the Large Shambler. You whip out a Black Bazooka and fire off a rocket, splattering a White Titan’s brains everywhere. A Hot Golem gets wiped out by a few Ice Shotgun blasts. The Ugly Nucklavee stands no chance against your Gorgeous Shoggoth. As for the Fast Sand Worm…well, that one’s got a few more options. They all do. It’s just a matter of choosing which words describe them.
That’s what Super Scribblenauts is all about: figuring out how to solve a puzzle by any means necessary. If you’re successful, you’ll be rewarded with a Starite, a trinket that ends the level when you pick it up. You might have to help create a new supermarket by summoning the necessary products. Or bring meaningful gifts to the parents of your potential date. Or figure out how to kill everything on Earth without an asteroid. Or get dressed up in a costume that appeals to kings, butlers, cheetahs, and leprechauns…at the same time. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially since the game is pretty focused on what it expects of you. There are multiple solutions to every puzzle (think of how many ways you can turn an electric guitar into an acoustic), but it’ll take a bit of thinking to come up with a perfect description. By the time you reach the final stage, you’ll have gone through dozens, if not hundreds of words.
What makes this game different from the original Scribblenauts isn’t the amount of things you can summon, but the adjectives you can use to describe them. A generic sword becomes much more interesting as a Colossal Holy Fruity Sparkly Zanbato. Not to mention the Tiny Bubbly Clay Whale, Leafy Rainbow Limo, or the Creepy Steel Liquid Immortal Burning Raptor. The sheer variety of combinations you can do is mind-blowing. You want to turn someone green? Give him a Green Potion. Want to kill him? Give him a Dead Potion. That’s on top of all the regular objects at your disposal. You’ve got everything from nuclear warheads to throwing knives. Riding a flying dinosaur beats an airplane any day. There are Artists, writers, mathematicians, economists, sociologists, criminals, oboists, ice cream men, doctors, atheists, philosophers, geniuses, ninjas, pirates, vikings, vampires…the list goes on and on. Aside from the returning internet memes like ‘Over Nine Thousand’ and ‘I See What You Did There’, you’ll be able to summon God, Medusa (her lopped-off head can petrify anything), dragons, chimeras, krakens, and all sorts of other awesome things.
You might need them, too. Unlike the previous game, Super Scribblenauts places a huge emphasis on figuring out specific answers to its puzzles. The designs focus less on open-ended levels - there are some, but nowhere near as many as before - which means you won’t be able to solve everything by reusing the same words over and over again. You won’t always have room to sprout wings and fly, or kill everything with a black hole. Nor will you be able to bypass gates and other obstacles by manipulating glitches; the development team has learned from their mistakes, and they’re not letting you off so easily this time. The Starite won’t even appear until you’ve completed an objective (like summoning objects that represent the Zodiac, or figuring out the evolutionary step between a lion and a tiny white housecat), which means you’ve got to read the instructions carefully. It’s actually a step backward from the previous game; rather than letting your imagination run wild, the game almost forces you into a corner. While it’s great that the designers figured out a way to keep you from abusing certain items, the game would have benefited from a better balance between puzzles and action-based challenges. The few sandbox-style levels that remain are some of the most brutally difficult parts of the game. Think you can navigate a destructible labyrinth while dodging exploding cans, fires, and floating spiky death traps?
Yeah, good luck with that.
Surviving those ordeals is made easier with the game’s biggest improvement: the controls. In the previous game, you had to use the stylus to move everything. Not just typing words with the onscreen keyboard and dragging the summoned items around the touch screen, but changing the direction in which you moved and interacted with objects. The sheer amount of control-related accidents made many of the stages needlessly annoying and tedious. Super Scribblenauts reworks this scheme into something far more manageable. You can move and jump with the directional pad and buttons, which allows for much more precise handling. No longer will you randomly jump off cliffs, or send your vehicle crashing into a river of lava because the game thought you were pressing in the wrong direction. You’ll be able to use the stylus to tap on objects without having to worry about accidentally shuffling into a cheap death. While interacting with smaller items can be a hassle on a crowded screen, the control scheme is better than its predecessor in every way. There’s an option to use the old stylus-based setup, but unless you’re masochistic, you’ll never have a reason to use it.
Regardless of how you approach the game, you’ll have a decent incentive to finish it. Whenever you complete a level, you’ll be awarded some Ollar bonus points that can be used to purchase different avatars. Unlike the first Scribblenauts, you won’t have to spend your Ollars to access new stages; all of the areas will be unlocked if you complete enough puzzles. You’ll probably focus more on collecting Merits, which are like the achievements and trophies found in console games. Some of them are pretty straightforward, like destroying the world or creating enough unique items. Others require a bit more effort; you’ll have to think of a way to combine eight adjectives into a single object, or uncover the game’s hidden stylus-based arcade game. But if you’re especially creative, you’ll spend the majority of your time messing around with the Level Editor. Everything can be customized; the layout and texture of the landscapes can be erased and rebuilt, specific characters and items can interact with each other, the various scripts can be designed around your own objectives, and you can trade your creations with other gamers online. The editing system is a little unwieldy at first, but a little experimentation can go a long way.
If it’s too complicated for you, you’ll probably end up goofing off in an open-ended level and attempting to come up with the craziest idea possible. Try summoning a Gigantic Pregnant Cthulhu. Not only will you get the super-sized version of the classic cosmic horror, but it’ll spawn a slightly smaller version of itself in a couple of seconds. Try filling the screen with different characters, then create a zombie and see how quickly you can raise an undead army. Terrorists, rebels, and pyromaniacs will act normally until a politician or police officer walks by. Not to mention all the stuff you can shrink, freeze, and set on fire. While some of the interactions are fun to watch, you might notice how the game reuses the same avatar for different characters. A blogger and a critic are identical, as are a nihilist and philosopher. At least the virgin and gamer characters are no longer synonymous. Everything is drawn in the same style of the last game: plain, bland designs and jerky movements. At their best, your creations will be slightly detailed based on the adjectives you used. God still zaps people with electrical punches, and anything shiny will emit a bunch of pixilated sparkles. If all else fails, you should never underestimate the power of a Colossal Barrel Launcher.
Super Scribblenauts has a lot going for it. It’s taken the idea of creating anything you want and extended it even further. Being able to modify any item with an adjective offers tons of potential variety and experimentation. You could spend hours just messing around on the starting screen without even touching the puzzles. The controls have been vastly improved, allowing for much more precise handling and an all-around better experience. The Level Editor and other extras ensure you’ll have plenty to work on as you try to complete every stage. Since the game is more puzzle-based, you’ll have to actually think of ways to beat a level without reusing the same items. While that’s a great way to solve the mistakes of the previous game, it also presents a problem: the stages limit the kind of creativity that made the first game so awesome. While a few open-ended levels remain, the ratio between the two types is unbalanced. The game would have benefited from a bit more freedom. Don’t let that stop you, though. Super Scribblenauts is a fine game. Give it a chance and see what your imagination can do.
Eight out of ten
- The already impressive word list has been made even bigger
- The ability to add adjectives to an object offers tons of variety and experimentation
- Even if you don't complete the puzzles, you could spend hours just messing around with the Level Editor and seeing what you can create
- The controls have been vastly improved from those of the last game
- The new design ensures that you won't be able to use cheap tactics by summoning the same items over and over again
- There's not a good balance between the puzzle-based levels and the open-ended ones
- The relative lack of freedom limits the kind of creativity that made the first game so awesome