Super Scribblenauts Nintendo DS Developed by 5th Cell Released in 2010
So, the original Scribblenauts was a bit disappointing, sporting a strong central concept, but backing that up with some very mediocre puzzle design. Now we are back once again, still on the same, old 32-bit Nintendo DS, but this time Scribblenauts went super, and the upgrade is much appreciated.
But what is super?
Once again we take control of Maxwell who wields his magical notepad. Anything you write into the notepad will immediately appear in-game and you use this near-limitless power to solve puzzles. Rather than having worlds, the game is now split up in star constellations, providing a more visual representation of how far you are in the game. You unlock more constellations as you solve a number of puzzles in previous ones, and completing an entire system will permanently draw a picture in the skies with the completed stars.
The puzzles, this time around, are a major improvement over those featured in the previous game. Puzzles now require a much more creative way of thinking, whereas the original game had a tendency to feature a mix of puzzles so easy they would bore a 3-year-old and puzzles that just left me stumped for hours, requiring you to just guess at what the developer intended. Now we get really interesting puzzles, like having Maxwell stand in line for a video game release and asking you to lure away all the customers in front of him, or to make a desert habitable again.
I found that about 90% of the answers I gave to puzzles would be accepted, and keep in mind that I love to give bizarre solutions to puzzles. A big new addition to the series is the use of adjectives, which you use to give specific qualities to the objects you create. This can range from wanting a specific color of clothing to determining the AI behavior of creatures right from the start. Some of the puzzles that focus on these mechanics end up being very weak in comparison, however, since the adjectives are kind of stubborn and specific, or the stages just don’t lend you a lot of freedom. One stage in particular clearly wanted me to make a piece of clothing with the colors of a leopard or some other big cat, but it wouldn’t accept tiger-patterned or any other word I could think of; turns out it wanted me to use “spotted”.
In terms of controls this is a vast improvement, however. Maxwell is much more stable to move around and puzzles require a lot less precision movement. The action stages have been decoupled from the main game and are now available as unlockable extra stages that benefit from these improved controls as well. You don’t really miss out on them if you choose to stick with the normal levels either, so they are just a neat bonus if you ever want a break from regular puzzles or really want to get more out of the game.
Gameplay score: 8/10
More merit badges than Psychonauts
While the visuals haven’t changed and really aren’t worth addressing a second time, merit badges did see a major overhaul in this game. In the first game they gave you extra Ollars with which you unlocked new levels, which still sort-of applies here. You get Ollars and can buy a variety of things, including different main characters to replace Maxwell. However, the criteria needed to get merit badges changed, and you no longer get the same ones each mission; they have become a collectible that you build up over time. I like this change, it makes it feel a lot more rewarding when you get a reward for your expansive vocabulary or using a lot of textures, as opposed to getting the same “you used a new word” merit badge after every puzzle.
Besides that there are the special stages to unlock and the game still includes the same level creator as its predecessors, giving you something extra to do if you really feel like it. These levels still can’t be shared, though, making it a feature that is only interesting if you share a cartridge with someone else.
Extras score: 8/10
While I won’t give it a merit badge for its visuals, Super Scribblenauts does benefit tremendously from its new take on puzzle design. By putting you in hilarious scenarios like a battle between witches or creating a dragon, it makes it more engaging to find solutions. While it pushes its adjectives a little too hard and it still features a few boring puzzles, you have the option to skip a lot of levels without missing out on other ones. Give it a shot if you are interested in a unique take on puzzling mixed with a healthy dose of comedy.