At last year’s E3, the talk of the show was a little known game at the Warner Brothers Interactive Booth called Scribblenauts. This little known DS game incredibly allow the player the impossible ability to summon and interact with any noun that wasn’t Proper, Copyrighted, or dirty (it’s E10 rated after all) and challenged the use to solve dozens of puzzles with their imaginations (something Video Games in general rarely ask of the player.) Fast-forward to that September that year and while the game delivered on it’s promise of “Write Everything, Solve Everything” it was plagued with issues that held it just short of excellence. The game itself was imaginative, but the same couldn’t be said of the puzzles, half of them were spotty either too straight forward or too unclear as to what the game wanted. The other half of the game was platforming action sequences that were made frustrating by imprecise touchscreen only controls. Not to let a great idea go to waste, developer 5th Cell took the game back to the drawing board, listen to the critics and fans, and has returned a year later with Super Scribblenauts, delivering the game I was excited for back in 2009.
More at the jump.
The basics of the game remain the same, you play as Maxwell, the young cosmic grammarian with the power to write nearly any noun into existence to solve bite size puzzles. That’s not to say everything is all the same, Maxwell has been giving the power of adjectives to modify any word he can create. Feel like you need to see a Friendly Wet Gigantic Rainbow Flying Pig, you got it. You can even tape a chainsaw to your Pig freak of nature and fly it through space and time to fight with a Miniature Purple Polka Dot Cthulhu while scared knights and kings run for their life as you do battle, you can do it, and that’s just the loading screen. The other major improvement is the new D pad control option that allows for much more accurate platforming and control in general.
The juicy meat of the game takes place across 10 constellation worlds with roughly 10 levels (give or take) in each world. The puzzles revolve around various challenges like figuring out what people might need for a beach party or carwash; or writing into existance something that share traits with a Diplodocus and Giraffe. The open nature of the game means it can be over quick if you’re ok with solving each puzzle once and accepting that as victory. The real challenge of the game is trying to solve the puzzles 3 times in a row without repeating a word, flexing your brainpower, creativity and bringing out the very best in the game. The new hint system also helps younger and less clever players on their first run with the puzzle should you find yourself stuck on a particularly hard one. Even if you cant solve a puzzle, the games open structure means there is alway a number of puzzle unlocking as you progress. The action puzzle are also back but as special extra levels rather then a main focus, this rightfully leaves the puzzle and adjective levels as the main focus to the game.
When Nintendo first created the DS, I’m sure they were hoping companies like 5th Cell would come around and use the hardware to create new and unique games for everyone inspired by the features of the platform. Super Scribblenauts is the culmination of that hope and is without a doubt one of the best games on the platform and one of the most impressive titles of the year. Hardcore gamers will find joy in creating absurd and clever thing to solve a puzzle in the game, children will love to watch the words they write come to life, and parents will love to see their kids actually flex their imagination and improve their spelling at the same time. With the Nintendo 3DS just around the corner, this game is a great way to say goodbye to the most successful handheld systems in gaming history.