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Super Scribblenauts review: Everyday I write the book

Justin McElroy

Forget the Scribblenauts you knew.

Usually, when people say things like that, it's because the new thing is so different, that trying to compare it to the old thing is just going to leave you confused. That's not the case with Super Scribblenauts, which is tonally, graphically and sonically almost identical to its predecessor.

No, I mention it only because Super Scribblenauts, which fixes practically every problem with the series' debut, is viewed most favorably in an alternate dimension where said debut never existed.

Gallery: Super Scribblenauts (DS) | 45 Photos

You're Maxwell, a tiny, cruel god with a magical notepad who leaves only a path of chaos in his wake as he fixates on menial tasks, like stocking a classroom for the first day of school. At least, that's how I play Maxwell. You, of course, are free to create almost anything you want with our hero's powers. And this time around, those objects can be modified with adjectives.

I got pretty sick of hearing Scribblenauts stories last year ("I made a zombie and had him fight God!"), but adjectives really do push the thing back into the sphere of madness. "God vs. Zombie" seems pretty tepid when I'm squaring off against an "angry, clumsy, flying, stupid giant box" in a "flying, crying purple electric bathtub." Madness.

By allowing you to apply adjectives that really make no sense to objects, Scribblenauts is straddling the line between creativity and problem solving better than ever before. Many of the puzzles were easier than they first appeared, but only because I managed to employ non-linear thinking.

If you Scribblenauts fans are looking for "new," then a ton of avatars (obtainable by spending in-game currency) and the implementation of adjectives are pretty much the extent of it (huge though the addition of the latter may be). Now, "fixed," on the other hand, Super Scribblenauts has "fixed" to spare.

Want to control Maxwell with the d-pad rather than the stylus? Of course you do, you're not an insane person. It wasn't a question anyway, it was a set-up for me to tell you that you can totally do that now. Want cute, engaging missions that really test your intellect and creativity rather than letting you solve most every problem with a lasso and a jet pack? That's been fixed too.

One of my favorite new puzzle types had me analyzing two objects on a grid before coming up with an object that shared a characteristic with both. (For example: A bear on one side of the grid and a chair on the other would be looking for something in the middle with four legs ... or maybe something brown, it's up to you.) These really helped me to think critically about objects in ways that I don't typically, and tested my creative mettle rather than penalizing me for experimentation.

"God vs. Zombie" seems pretty tepid when I'm squaring off against an "angry, clumsy, flying, stupid giant box" in an "flying, crying purple electric bathtub."

There really aren't any major stumbles worth mentioning. Sure, there's some occasional technical weirdness (solutions sometimes don't work that absolutely should, for example) but in a game with so many moving parts, it's frankly stunning that it doesn't happen more frequently.

No, the real problem with Super Scribblenauts ... is Scribblenauts. When it worked, Scribblenauts did so solely on the novelty of its core concept. "A game where you can create anything! Can you imagine?" Only now, everyone can imagine. Heck, they don't even need to imagine because they played the thing 13 months ago when it was first released. Super Scribblenauts is what the first game should have been and it's just the slightest bit concerning to see an annual iteration from a series that's supposed to hang its rooster cap on innovation.

It's a shame it had to shake out like this, but I would really caution those underwhelmed by the original against skipping out on Super Scribblenauts. If you were ever excited about the premise, this is the pure, near-flawless expression of it. And now that we've seen that 5th Cell can back up astounding innovation with great design, I can't wait to see what will spring from its notepad next.

This review is based on the DS retail version of Super Scribblenauts provided by WBIE.

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