Super Scribblenauts Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Oct 12, 2010

Super Scribblenauts's concept is more impressive than the actual game, but those who enjoyed the first title will likely find the sequel to be just as enjoyable.

The Pros
  • Humorous visuals
  • 120 all-new challenges to complete
  • Easy-to-use puzzle editor
The Cons
  • Puzzles seemed designed for younger audiences
  • Adjective use often seems "forced"
  • Limited puzzle sharing options

A playful, pacifist, polka-dot poodle. A giant, grumpy, green gardener. These are only a few of the things you can create in Super Scribblenauts, which takes the impressive sized dictionary found in the original game and adds 10,000 (Amazing! Incredible!) adjectives. There's still one nagging problem, however, and it's the enormous, egregious elephant in the room, if you will: there's not much of an actual "game" to Scribblenauts; It's little more than a sketchpad on which to doodle.

And the Things I Type Come True

The 120 levels in Super Scribblenauts are grouped into 12 constellations. Complete a certain number of stages in one constellation and you'll open up additional constellations and new paths, allowing you to pick and choose any unlocked stage instead of following each in linear progression. Nearly all stages are puzzles instead of action sequences this time around, introduced with a text-based clue on what you are supposed to accomplish. The majority of tasks involve creating a list of themed items or creatures that possess specific traits. Others require you to give people what they "want," based on their thought bubbles or profession.

You'll create items to kick off a beach party, for example (sorry, beer is not allowed), decorate an empty house, create a city with specific building types, complete a grocery store, and populate a museum gallery. To conjure up an item, you simply tap on a notebook in the corner of the screen and type or write out the word. The item will then appear on the touch screen, allowing you to drag it to wherever you want. Maxwell, the game's rooster-cap-clad protagonist, can also interact and use items you create, like a shovel or jetpack, but you won't be using him much outside of collecting the fallen starlite reward for completing a stage. Perhaps it's just as well, since the touch-screen controls can be finicky, requiring multiple taps or drags to make sure they register. While the control pad can now be used to guide Maxwell, it's still a bit awkward, since you still have to switch back to the stylus to type words and position objects.

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Scribble Me This...

Super Scribblenauts earns points for its whimsical style and sense of humor (there are puzzles based on the Wizard of Oz and Super Mario Bros.), but older players will find the puzzles too simplistic. Each level on average will take you about one minute to complete, most of which is spent typing. Adjectives aren't even needed to complete most challenges, so the developers created adjective-specific stages that force you to use them. Yellow locks, for example, require yellow keys. Or you'll have to use opposite adjectives to defeat a series of monsters. Large must be countered with small, hot countered with cold, and so forth. Yes, the solutions are that obvious.

The most frustrating thing about Super Scribblenauts is that there's so much untapped potential. In one scenario, an invasion is imminent and you need to arm a bunch of cute little people with weapons. Giving one person a laser pistol turns him into a Martian, while a sword transforms another into a knight. Once you've armed your four-person team, however, the puzzle ends. An actual "game" would have let the invasion play out, allowing you to create the defenses or structures needed to ensure your group's survival.

After completing all 120 stages, Super Scribblenauts doesn't necessarily end. You can revisit past stages to complete the same challenges using different words and items, but unless you have the vocabulary of Forrest Gump, you won't be taxed in the slightest. Like the original, the game also offers the ability to create your own puzzle types, with an icon-based editor that lets you choose one of 16 objectives or templates (such as scaring off people, overcoming obstacles, slaying enemies, and so forth) before allowing you to position objects, create NPCs, and so forth. While the editor works well, you are limited to eight custom stages and can only share/receive puzzles with/from your friends list and not the online community as a whole.



The Final Word

Your opinion of Super Scribblenauts will largely depend on how you viewed the original. The sequel doesn't exactly break new ground and the best part of the first game -- seeing your words come to life in quirky, retro-style visuals -- is still a big part of the appeal. Yet, if you're a wily wordsmith looking to exercise your gray matter, you're better off with more traditional games like Bookworm or Scrabble. Underneath Super Scribblenauts's charming exterior is a nifty idea in desperate need of some direction.