Ambition is no guarantee of success. Take the original Scribblenauts - a hugely ambitious premise, but one that was let down by poor controls.
Happily, this sequel solves all the flaws of its predecessor and throws in a whole thesaurus of extra features to boot.
The idea is simple: guide pathologically helpful protagonist Maxwell through a series of side-scrolling cartoon levels-solving puzzles.
Your only tool is a magic notebook. Open it up, tap in pretty much any word you can think of, and the game will drop that item into play.
It’s like a word-based version of '80s cartoon Penny Crayon.
Read between the lines
New for Super Scribblenauts is the ability to qualify your words with adjectives.
Bored of your yak? How about a tiny, confused vampire yak? Or a gentlemanly patchwork frog? Or a giant rainbow gazelle? Or...
It’s daunting at first. Your imagination struggles to keep up with the possibilities available.
There are literally hours of fun to be had simply thinking up bizarre creations and watching them lope around the game’s title screen ‘playground.’
There are limits, in that the game doesn't allow trademarked words or obscenities. Nevertheless there are thousands of objects to summon.
As well as holding a staggering volume of words in its dictionary, the game also manages to model relationships between your creations.
Conjure a curious camel and a bonfire, then watch with odd satisfaction as the inquisitive beast goes and stands in the flames. Or create a knight and a dragon, and see the ensuing conflict unfold.
It’s real testament to 5th Cell’s development work that these charming relationships make perfect sense, but often take you by suprise.
But as fun as testing your vocabulary’s entertainment value is, spawning random eccentricities eventually wears thin. Thankfully, there’s a huge story mode to get your teeth into too.
Missions range in theme and content. You might have to help a botanist populate her garden, or simply find a way of getting the end of level star out of a tree.
Settings are just as varied. One minute you’ll be stocking a contemporary supermarket, the next could find you face-to-face with dinosaurs and volcanoes.
It’s in the face of this diversity that the game's only real flaw comes to the surface.
With almost infinite options available, it’s hard to know exactly what each level demands. A hint system allows you to buy tips using in-game currency-called ollars- but there are inevitable moments where an ‘obvious’ solution may simply not occur to you.
A few minutes of intensive trial and error will get you through these sticky moments, but they’re an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise flawless sequel.
Writing the wrongs
Super Scribblenauts does a great job of improving in areas that its predecessor was criticised for, most notably in terms of controls.
The original Scribblenauts used only touch control, and often saw Maxwell fall haplessly to his doom, due to an unreliable run command.
This version offers the option of D-pad control, which makes proceedings much more manageable.
Controlling Maxwell this way feels like a classic platform game, with left and right used for movement and up (or the B button) used to jump. This leaves the touchscreen dedicated to summoning creations and interacting with them, and also allows you to move and perform item actions like ‘shoot’ at the same time.
This is just as well, because the game’s later levels require some pretty nifty footwork from our crayon-toting hero.
Things get tricky pretty quickly, with many of the unlockable ‘special’ levels serving up instant death in the form of fireballs, spike traps and lava pits.
It’s all well worth the hassle though, as completing tougher levels with imaginative words will earn you more ollars.
Pimp my write
Ollars can be used to buy levels and unlock a huge cast of playable characters, including – rather oddly - a cutesy cartoon version of Barack Obama.
I personally recommend the robot, as his celebratory dance is magnificently camp for a non-sentient being.
If your appetite for customisation isn’t sated by the massive wardrobe of skins on offer, there’s also a level editor.
You can paint terrain, place and script non-player characters, assign objectives, and use your notepad to drop game objects into place.
It takes patience, but it’s possible to create levels easily as complex as those in the main game.
With these custom elements, a near inexhaustible vocabulary of game objects and adjectives, and merits awarded for how efficiently you pass a stage, there’s more than enough replay value here for dollar.
If the boundless imagination on offer sounds more daunting than fun, then this one might not be for you. Otherwise, Super Scribblenauts is a monumentally original concept, finally presented with the charm and polish it deserves.
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