What We Know:
It's clear that Super Scribblenauts seeks to fix the problems the original Scribblenauts had, with improved controls, while at the same time adding exciting new features (adjectives!) and an increased vocabulary. 5th Cell has also switched up the number of puzzle levels in the sequel and gave us an opportunity to try a bunch out for ourselves.
What We're Seeing Now:
As fun as inventing random objects was in Scribblenauts, Super Scribblenauts mixes things up with the addition of adjectives. Every object in the game's massive vocabulary can be edited on the fly by choosing from roughly 10,000 adjectives. There's no limit to how many adjectives you apply either, so you'll be making bizarre creations like robotic, winged, vampiric helicopters as a matter of course throughout the game.
After a demonstration during which a rideable, fire-breathing tomato took part in an epic battle against an angry fridge ("a nasty chap!" according to the developer) and a gentlemanly hydra (complete with monocle and top hat) I was back to feeling the same sense of wonder that Scribblenauts inspired at E3 2009. Once again the engine has showed itself to be a great proof of concept, but does it translate into a great game?
Adjectives aren't just a superfluous addition to the game; in many levels they're required to reach the goal. Roughly a third of the levels in the game require adjectives. In some, the player is shown a number of distinct items and is given the task to create a single object that has a characteristic of each. Hence the robotic, winged, vampiric helicopter mentioned earlier. In another level I played, a man had to be transformed into a dragon by feeding him potions. A green potion turned him green, a scaly potion gave him a scary skin condition, etc.
From the handful of levels I tried, there was a larger variety of challenge types. Hopefully this continues beyond those early levels, which were fairly straightforward, and towards more challenging tasks later in the game. There's a new multi-layered hint system (think Professor Layton) in the game to help out just in case things get too taxing.
Once again, there's a great opportunity for some classic comedy moments to occur in this game. In a level where I had to give people cars in their color of their choice I accidentally kicked an errant car engine out of my auto shop into the path of my customer's car, blocking their path. Trying to destroy it, I planted a bomb nearby. The engine remained intact, but Maxwell and his customer sadly didn't. "That's not a car!" the game declared, seemingly as amused as I was.
This propensity for unintentional and surreal humor, which the original game also had in spades, seems misplaced on a handheld device. During our press presentation of Super Scribblenauts the game was blown up onto a TV as people called out bizarre sounding objects to create. This would make for a great party experience in the living room. Even a downloadable version on PSN or XBLA of the game's playground mode, where you can freely create objects without any specific objectives, would be an instant purchase for that reason alone.
Scribblenauts' levels were split down the middle, with 50% puzzle and 50% action. In the sequel much more emphasis has been put on the puzzle levels, as 5th Cell learned that they were by far players' favorites. As a result, of the 120 levels in the game a full 100 of them are puzzle based.
All this, coupled with the improved controls, updated level editor and new puzzle types gives this the sort of refinement that Scribblenauts was desperate for. Interest in the franchise has died down considerably since E3 2009, but I'd like to think that anyone who found themselves slack-jawed in its presence back then will give the sequel a second look.