Last year, we managed to cover a game right before a wave of buzz hit it, and we rode that wave. We rode it hard. Scribblenauts, by developer 5th Cell, was all people could talk about at both at the show and online at E3 2009. You can type anything and it would appear! Anything you want! Tucked into the back of one of the halls, it was the definition of a sleeper hit. When the game came out, we realized that nothing could ever live up to that much hype. The game was still fun, and the core mechanic was brilliant and adorable, but unfortunately, control issues and frustrating action stages kept it from being a truly great game. This was disappointing, specifically for me. I wanted to love the game so, so much. My heart shrank a little on the day I stopped playing the game.
When I heard that 5th Cell was responding to the criticism of the first game with a sequel, Super Scribblenauts, though…well, hope started to course through my veins. Maybe, just maybe…5th Cell would read their criticism, smile, rush to their executive whiteboards and make this game perfect. Maybe Maxwell would be controllable via the D-Pad. Maybe the puzzles would take center stage. Maybe they would find some new clever mechanic to add to the variety of the game.
From my short time with the game on the show floor, I believe they have done that.
Super Scribblenauts plays mostly the same as the original, but, as I mentioned above, with a greater emphasis on puzzling rather than action. The game follows the adventures of Maxwell as he attempts to claim Starites by completing various tasks. In one stage, I had to reach the front of the line of people who were waiting to buy a video game (Scribblenauts, of course). In the first game, you’d just leap over their heads with a jetpack or a pegasus, but here, you were instructed to do it in a sneaky way via bribery. In the game, you type in an object, and it appears. This greatest addition this time around is the ability to use multiple adjectives to modify your nouns. Why give the strongman a barbell when you can give him a molecular barbell, so tiny that it no more than a few pixels?
The various adjectives we tested were fantastic, modifying both the look and the behavior of the items and characters that appeared. “Scary” adds a hilarious monster mask to the character. Sticky adds a variety of gross spheres that affix themselves to the item. When I input “lonesome cowboy,” a little western fellow sadly followed around Maxwell until he met someone new. As has been mentioned elsewhere, “pregnant” causes the characters to give birth (they just appear, so don’t get any ideas, sick-os) to smaller versions of the characters. This mechanic is absolutely fantastic. One puzzle we played required you to turn a character into a dragon via potions. If you gave him a “green potion,” he would turn green. Give him then a “scaly potion,” and he would be green with scales. Finally, give him a “winged potion,” and he would sprout wings…and ta-da! DRAGON TIME, BITCHES. You can even layer the adjectives, so you could solve that puzzle with “scaly, green, winged potion.” In our video we posted last night, you can see this in the characters we added in. Multiple versions of the same adjective won’t be counted, though, which was sad, since I wanted to see “Sassy, Sassy, Sassy, Sassy God.”
Beyond that, there were a lot of changes that were demonstrated quite quickly. You can go back through the last twelve things you typed and bring them back up, without having to re-type. You can go to a quick list of all of the various adjectives you have input into the game. Maxwell can be controlled via d-pad and buttons at any time via a quick trip to the start menu. The level editor has been expanded, and allows you to make more complex challenges using a variety of templates built into the game. In essence, 5th Cell did that thing you always want video game companies to do – they listened, and they learned, and they responded. Super Scribblenauts might just be the game we wanted Scribblenauts to be – a classic.
Super Scribblenauts. Coming this fat, sassy, cantankerous, pregnant fall.