Super Scribblenauts (Nintendo DS) Review
How do you make a sequel to a game that featured over 22,000 words? Simple. Scribblenauts: Adjectives Edition allows you to create burning monkeys, hairy eggs and buttery old women.
Spectacularly, the game has few limits when it comes to vocabulary. Once again the title screen proves more fun than the majority of the games released this year. Using the touch pad, simply type a word (providing it’s not vulgar) and watch your creations come to life. Watery dog, loony butter and an angry flying opera singer were all accepted. The array of words and adjectives available is staggering.
The predecessor was rife with technical problems that 5th Cell have fixed. Maxwell can now be controlled by using the D-pad, which negates the bumbling touch screen controls. There is now an icon to make the camera flick back to Maxwell, rather than this happening automatically. So with the major issues ironed out this should be a blast eh?
The problem is that Super Scribblenaughts never gives you the opportunity to use its marvellous system. Stages are designed like glorified visual crosswords. Where the predecessor gave you ample opportunities to come up with imaginative solutions to silly scenarios, the sequel is simply dull. The majority of stages require creating items for people via simple word association, for example one stage asks you to fill a classroom with items found in a school and another requests that two boys are given sports gear. It doesn’t ever progress beyond this level of simplicity. Put some planets in the sky, give this bloke lemonade, make a scary scene, give the archaeologist some tools. It’s basic stuff.
The adjective stages are equally as uninspired and ask you to create an object that has the properties of two other objects. For example, in one stage you must summon an object with the qualities of a bird, a vampire and a leech, so the answer is a Vampiric Pigeon (or mine was anyway). The integration of adjectives within the system isn’t convincing. I opted to create an eerie park bench and I got a bench with a spooky mask pasted carelessly on it, a ‘weird house‘ was a standard house with glasses and a party hat scrawled nonchalantly on the sprite. It felt a bit cheap. If anything, the adjectives and their limited use has exposed Scribblenauts’ shortcomings as opposed to enhancing them.
The original Scribblenauts drew a neat balance between puzzle stages and action stages, which nicely broke up the gameplay. In the predecessor there were levels where I had a stegosaurus towing a knight – who was sat in a bus – up a hill to reach his castle. On another I was asked to knock over a carefully built pyramid of tin cans. I dropped a tractor on them. Super Scribblenauts never lets you use your imagination to this extent and feels like a wasted opportunity, where poor level design has squandered a brilliant system.
Despite fixing the lumbering controls and awkward design decisions that hampered the original, Super Scribblenauts remains a lesser game because of it’s uninspired levels. There is a marvellous system at heart allowing players to conjure objects from the depths of their imagination, but it’s lacking the ingenious design to let you run riot with it. Super Scribblenauts teaches us that old ladies like biscuits, that knights can take on ninjas and that butter can be a bit mad if you desire. The most important lesson here though, is that a great system, does not necessarily make a great game.