Developers 5th Cell have a wicked, darkly tinged sense of humour. They seem like the sort of DS developers that thumb their nose at all those rather too staid and serious teams that see the Nintendo DS as a dumping ground for lifestyle experience games, or image enhancing “smart gaming” that purports to turn you from a dullard into a genius with just a few strokes of the stylus.
Super Scribblenauts follows on from 5th Cell’s quirky genre-defining puzzler and once again we meet Maxwell, a lad with a huge dictionary and a helpful disposition.
As before, Maxwell roams around his neighbourhood helping ordinary everyday folk out with extraordinary situations, creating objects from thin air with the use of a magic word pad.
This time though, Maxwell’s pad is even more powerful. Merely using nouns will solve many of the puzzles you’ll encounter, but this time there are adjectives too which will help you modify and describe objects you create in more detail. You can go ahead and create a car, for example – and one will pop into existence. But if you tap in “large red car” you will get exactly that.
Angry Horny Wildebeeste
Adding this new wrinkle to Scribblenauts means that there are even more possibilities for solutions to each puzzle you’ll encounter as Maxwell happily gambols around.
Presentation-wise, Super Scribblenauts gets you to set up a save profile. Here’s where one of the only fiddly bits of the games gets slightly in the way of the action. It’s not entirely clear what you should be clicking on once your profile is created – and it took me a couple of attempts before I realised that you have to click on your name text rather than any of the other buttons on the front end. It’s a bit daft and annoying really, like finding a link on a web page that looks exactly like the background text around it.
Once you’re in though, things are much improved. Each set of levels is clustered around a set of constellations. Maxwell can flick through each star cluster and choose individual stars that act as level markers. As before, you can take a single pass at a puzzle to solve it, or enter advanced mode to see if you can solve the same puzzle in three different ways.
Completing a constellation will fill in the outline of an object with solid colour, showing you which level collections you’ve mastered. This seems to work a lot better than the old “map” interface in Scribblenauts, and it’s quite pleasing leafing through your previously completed challenges to see which ones you can try and “gold”.
Confused Bipolar Ay Ay
Alongside the sort of puzzles you’ll have encountered in the previous game, there are new challenges that get you to try and make logical connections between a collection of objects in order to create something that fits in a particular sequence. Other challenges require multiple objects of different types to be created, and Super Scribbenauts breaks you in gently with a set of easy to solve tutorial levels each time you encounter something slightly different to the normal noun / object based puzzles.
With Scribblenauts, the best moments always came from finding slightly off-the-wall solutions to seemingly simple puzzles, or just wreaking havoc by invoking something huge, nasty and mean like a giant Cthulu to drown a submarine full of attacking sailors, or just bringing God into the mix to lay down his divine wrath if Maxwell got into hot water. This time around, 5th Cell have slightly reined in some of the ways of “cheating” players might have resorted to in the previous game, and it does feel a lot more like you need to use your old grey matter to think outside the box rather than just resorting to ploughing through levels using the same solutions every time.
The more you play, the more Ollars you earn and these can be spent in-game on various items, from handy hints if you really get stuck in a level, to extra avatars if you get fed up with Maxwell’s happy smiling face.
Saving your Ollars for the really surreal and unfathomable puzzles later on in the game is a wise strategy. Some levels have instantly obvious solutions while others require heavy use of the “identify” magnifying glass tool, and of course plenty of dipping into those hints – and even then you can be stuck for hours before you’ll be off doing something else like taking a dump or putting the bins out and a solution will come to you in a flash.
Single Female Lawyer
It’s certainly one way of ensuring that the game is superglued into your DS for quite some time because it becomes addictive trying to outwit the developers to conjure up daft stuff like giant man-eating penguins or Helicopter Underpant Gnomes.
Fans of the original Scribblenauts will probably just welcome a stack of new puzzles to get their teeth into, and newcomers to the game will probably find that there are enough pointers and hints in Super Scribblenauts to allow them to just leap on in with the sequel rather than bothering with the original.
The game has a huge lifespan.There are dozens of constellations to work through, each containing multiple levels and if you get bored with those you can always have a crack at producing your own puzzle designs with the game’s built-in editor, before sharing them with friends.
Maxwell Rooster Booster
Super Scribblenauts is a nicely polished and improved sequel to a game that you’d seriously love to see on an under-the-telly console, but it’s perfect portable gaming too and it’s quite possible to pick up and play where you left off, quickly solving a few puzzles on your commute to work.
5th Cell’s next game may be a complete departure from Scribblenauts, but if it’s anywhere near as good, it’s definitely going to be something to look forward to.