What a world Maxwell lives in. It is a world of imagination and creativity, a world where just about anything can exist, and a world that almost breaks the gaming ‘fourth wall’ between player and Maxwell, their on-screen avatar. The fact that the player can drop any object into Maxwell’s world gives a whole new level of interaction, one that can delight or frustrate depending on levels of imagination or writers block.
For those new to the Scribblenauts milieu, our hero Maxwell is on a quest for Starites and the only way to get them is to solve a bunch of puzzles. The amazing thing that the original game introduced was the seemingly simple concept of allowing players to create their own tools to solve the situation. Need to get Maxwell across a chasm to the starite there? Simply tap in (or use the handwrite interface) ‘bridge’, ‘hot air balloon’, ‘wings’, ‘jet pack’ or whatever else is nestled in your brain that could help.
Magically your verbiage will appear in-game, generally with all the characteristics of their real-life (or fictional life) counterparts. So Ninja’s will attack (and defeat!) Pirates, metal is stronger than wood -but doesn’t float so well, Pegasus can fly and so on. Surprisingly God gets along just fine with Darwin.
Objects can be combined, so a hook can be added to a rope for example, with the only limitation being imagination and the games imposed ‘number-of-objects’ memory limits.
Super Scribblenauts not only introduces adjectives into the mix, but fixes many of the complaints with the initial game.
Describing an object as cute, angry, or simply yellow adds a new level of complexity to a game that already at times felt at once either bland in the obviousness of its answers, and at others overwhelming due to choice.
Super Scribblenauts shakes up the single mission structure, doing away with the worlds and giving you 12 ‘Constellations’ of 10 puzzles each to complete. Each group will include one or more special adjective levels, requiring the placement of a related object in a Celebrity Squares style arrangement. Creatively coming up with an object that intersects between a Leech, Bird, Vampire and Zombie is an early, and easy, example of this new type of level.
There is also action orientated levels requiring a more dexterous or time dependent approach to a solution. Some will require expert timing, or thinking outside the square, perhaps for a solution the designers never envisaged.
Possibly it is because of the flexibility of adjectives, or perhaps feedback about the original game, but the 120 levels in Super Scribblenauts feel easier, more directed and less dependent on creating whacky combinations of objects. Maxwell now has a small meter at the top of the screen to indicate a levels progress, fill all the requirements and the Starite will appear.
There are in-game achievements, known as merits, when you impress yourself with your own ingenuity; chances are you will impress the game as well. Ollars – the in game currency – are earned completing challenges; these can be spent on the new tiered and timed hint system in times of strife. Ollars can also buy you a new avatar other than Maxwell, why you would want to is questionable, for part of the games charm is in Maxwell himself.
The biggest enhancement that aids game-play enjoyment is the improved control mechanism. An optional choice of using D-Pad for movement will remove much of the frustration encountered when Maxwell would stumble into your perfectly balanced contraptions. Likewise, the physics engine has been overhauled to improve object interaction giving a less ‘floaty’ feel to the miniature construction work.
The new use of adjectives does throw up one design conundrum however. Experimentation is still key to this game and it can be annoying when the system crosses out your chosen words as unfeasible, but then drops you out of the keypad, back to the game world with an object you did not intend. My preference would have been to highlight the problem, with a chance to change at the keying stage.
For the extra patient, the comprehensive level design editor will give hours of construction, scripting and sharing fun.
This iteration of Scribblenauts is more accessible and overall less frustrating than the original game. It also attracts a crowd of helpful onlookers willing to throw in their 2 cents worth.
“Try a cute red dinosaur.”
“Try a scary metallic armadillo”
And so forth.