Look for the boy in a funny hat.
I played the first Scribblenauts about a year ago, a day before I headed back home from visiting family in Minnesota. And admittedly, after playing a few levels, I was intrigued; for you see, I was told I could create anything my mind could think of. While that's obviously not entirely true (it also said I couldn't make anything obscene…), all I wanted to do was throw poop at the damn monkey as an alien!
[image1]Scribblenauts has no real “story” to speak of, just a little fella named Maxwell out in the world, trying to find things called “starites” (I suppose they're like stars from Super Mario 64, but eh…). But how do you get these? By calling on the powers of… the English dictionary! Not every word is in there – again, nothing obscene, and nothing too specific like “Linda Hamilton” or too big like "Las Vegas”. But a ton of them are – oddly enough, entire constellations are in there but not a city.
If you played the original, then you know what to expect here: a plethora of puzzles that range from the very simple – give the character what they need, like giving a gun to a cop – to some form of virtual Rube Goldberg machine. But in order to do that, you must take control of the keyboard on the screen to write up what needs to come into existence. If you need a bridge, type that out. If you need a murderer (yup, there's one in there), just let the game know. The game has a fairly strong lexicon and can almost always figure out what it is you're trying to say. Sure, some of the characters look similar, but with as many different ways to say similar things. it's not too out-of-place.
This time, though – you had to know something would be different with the word “Super” in the title – there is an extended library filled with adjectives as well as nouns. No longer is one regulated just to a simple key; now that key comes in a variety of colors! Your vampires aren't just vampires, they're scary vampires… complete with a scary mask so you know they're scary! Many of the puzzles are “Adjective Levels” with the goal being to find the right items and descriptive terms to fit the bill, usually in a “noun equation” or “talent show” that fills in a necessary missing pieces. You might have to find a way to satisfy the love of a cheetah, a king, and a leprechaun… which is an interesting little conundrum.
[image2]Unfortunately, the action levels must be pointed out as well. There aren't many of them, which is the best thing about them, because they're more irritating than anything else. This kind of game is not slow per se, but deliberate. Trying to speed this up doesn't make much sense when controlling Maxwell with the D-pad and the stylus can be a sticky affair. It's a fun idea, but in practice it doesn't work. Even the two starting levels – one flipping levers and jumping on a button, and the other simply reaching the other side of a stage filled with spiky balls and wind machines – are terribly difficult to get through.
Thankfully, added to this new puzzle type is something that was desperately needed in the previous game: a hint system. While the original game left a player to fend for themselves, Super has a set-up where if you take a while trying new things and dawdling (in the puzzles that don't require a “first strike and you're out” rule), a timer will run out of juice and offer you a clue. You can have up to three clues per puzzle, and while they're not always very clear (which I know is the point, but c'mon), they certainly help keep a player engaged instead of prompting a quick shut-off of the game.
One extra little tidbit that can keep some players for forever is the ability to create your own stage. It's in-depth and confusing to go in totally blind, but as soon as one part – any part – is opened up for the first time, a little help window opens up to give some tips and insight. It's a good way of going about teaching players how to use it, but the text is a little bit hard to read with a font that doesn't lend itself to too much reading (one of the little ironies about a game based around words, I guess).
[image3]Those little problems I have with the first game, like how twitchy and off the touch controls are, and how annoying it is to connect two items together via chains or rope, are notably improved here. Even the character animations feel a little less jagged and jerky. Hell, the whole package feels refined, less like a concept and more like a fleshed-out package.
5th Cell broke ground with the first, and the second is a beautiful package. A really determined player can find the “ending” after only a few afternoons of play, but the fun is messing around with the language to see just what you can get away with instead of powering through a speed-run. Sure it's short, but the more they work this formula, the sweeter it gets. Now, somebody please make a version with all of the bad words intact! I wanna say stuff that would make Bob Saget cringe!