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March 27, 2015

Super Scribblenauts

The concept of Scribblenauts was already pretty great: You can create almost anything out of thin air. Go ahead and have a blast. Super Scribblenauts adds a new dimension to this: Adjectives! Now, you also need to think about adjectives if you want to beat the puzzles in Story Mode. You can give any object any color or adjective, and you can even add adjectives to characters who don't have them, thanks to magic potions! Now, the amazing number of possibilities has become even more amazing!

And thus continues the plot-less story of Maxwell, his magical notebook and the Starites. As I said in my review of Scribblenauts, we don't get any “plot” until the third game in the series, Scribblenauts Unlimited. Not that this removes any fun from the game. Once again, there are two main parts to Super Scribblenauts: Free Mode and Puzzle Mode. Well, that's how I call them, anyway, considering there aren't actual names for them.

Free Mode is as great as ever. You can select one of 9 environments in which to play and experiment with words, adjectives and interactions between objects. What's also great is that many of these environments already have objects in them. It's time to increase your vocabulary! As was the case in the first Scribblenauts game, you can tap at any moment the Magnifying Glass icon located at the top left of the touch screen. This time around, however, the magnifying glass will also reveal every adjective added to the selected object. If it's a curious, friendly lion, or if it's a scared chair, or a fertile princess, or a fast hedgehog, or a nasty snail, you'll know it.

Do you need a particular adjective on an object? Type “(adjective) potion” and you'll be given a potion, which you can then feed to the character or object, and it will gain that adjective. Yes, objects can gain some form of sentience and emotions. I created a scared chair that started running around, trying to escape. Let's not talk about my heroic villain, my mean superhero and my winged, polkadotted bathtub!

I use it to bathe. It makes my bath time magical.

That's a colossal man. He better be
friendly, or else this is gonna get
I think that's the core fun with Super Scribblenauts: To give odd adjectives to objects. And boy are there plenty of adjectives in this game! Aside from the examples I gave so far, you can make anything:
-Hungry, Cannibal
-Fiery, Cold
-Sick, cavitied, cured
-Colossal, giant, big, small, tiny, microscopic
-Blue, red, green, yellow, purple, brown, orange, white, black, striped, polkadotted... RAINBOW!
-And more!

Just make sure it's tamed.
Then, see what happens when objects with those adjectives interact with each other. Anything pregnant will spawn a smaller version of themselves a few seconds after their creation. Anything fertile will become pregnant if it encounters any object with the same name, minus the adjective. In other words, two men can produce a smaller man, two women will create a smaller woman. If you try to rationalize all the weird stuff that can happen here, remember this: All-summoning notepad. Your arguments are invalid. Spatial car? No problem. Stupid Einstein? Sure. Holy atheist? Why not? Evil giant puppy? Hell yes! Cool nerd? Oh yah. Friendly, striped Cthulhu THAT YOU CAN RIDE? Go ahead and fulfill your Lovecraftian dreams. A tamed hydra wearing a different hat on every head? That would make the Mad Hatter proud! Winged porcine? You won't have to wait for the flying pigs! Real world logic? What's that? Why should we care? You could create a top hat on which is glued a tamed, unicycle-riding, monocle and top hat-wearing bear. And Maxwell can wear the top hat on which all this stuff is glued!



Hey, I'm not THAT old!

Whoah. Calm down, Nic! This is just a game, after all! I.... I think I'll move on to Puzzle Mode. For that one, you tap Start, and you get to a menu with four options: Single Player, Custom Levels, Extras, Credits. Credits are, well, the credits, obviously. Since this game can be technically endless, they had to put the credits in the game somewhere, right?

In the Extras Menu, you can see the Merits (achievements  - there's 60 of them), follow a short Tutorial (much shorter than the one in Scribblenauts, anyway; there's only one level here, there were 11 in the original game) or change the controls. Do you prefer to move Maxwell around with the control pad, with the buttons on the right, or with the stylus? The choice is yours to make. Not like it's that big of a choice, anyway...

I don't trust him...
I'll cover Custom Levels last. Now, you can create a profile, and then change settings for your game. Once again, you can change the controls, you can edit your profile name, or you can choose an alternate character skin for Maxwell. Oh no, I don't mean in the gory way. If that's the first thought that came to your mind, you need a sanity check. I meant alternate costumes, but in this game, while you can disguise Maxwell with objects, you can't let him wear those objects from a level to another, so instead of controlling Maxwell, you can use any of 49 alternate costumes, which are all characters you can summon in the game. There's Llewxam (AKA Maxwell's Doppleganger), a DJ, a hairdresser, a gamer, a ballet dancer, a hippie, and the later costumes you can unlock are a tad weirder, like a mad scientist, a clown, western-themed characters, historical people, an Illuminati (complete with monocle, mustache, top hat and villainous attitude), a vampire hunter, an invisible man, and so on... The only problem is that you must buy most of those alternate costumes, using the Ollars you earn by completing the puzzles in Puzzle Mode.

Alright, so Puzzle Mode itself. Maxwell is stargazing and seeing constellations without any stars. How to make the stars appear? By completing the puzzles. Each star in a constellation is a puzzle, and completed constellations form pictures. Constellation 1 takes the shape of a tree, as an example. The second one forms a pencil, the third is a notebook... When you tap a level on the selection screen, you'll get a screenshot of the level giving you a bit of an idea of what's going to be in the level, and the difficulty level. 1 pencil out of 5 means the level should be easy, and 5 out of 5 means you're in for a damn hard challenge that either requires quick wits or a large vocabulary. Either way, you'll need to think.

Most of the levels don't actually “require” adjectives, but those that do will indicate it when you start playing them. You can complete many of the early levels without using adjectives, but after a while you'll start getting more and more puzzles that demand you use adjectives such as colors or particular properties. Keep a dictionary on standby!

Also, as you complete levels, you'll notice that some of the stars in the constellations have crowns on them. Others don't. Do you remember the first Scribblenauts? Each and every puzzle and action level had to be completed a total of three times. The game kept track of each object you've been using, and you couldn't use the same object twice. Here, it's the same thing, but it's only the crowned levels. Oh, it's still going to be difficult, especially with the adjective levels, but at least not every single level has to be completed thrice. The game will also keep track of the number of different objects and adjectives you use.

The hint here is to destroy the monsters that appear
by using monsters who have the opposite adjective
to them. Complicated...
In every level, you get a free hint. If you try numerous things and find yourself unable to find the solution, the game will give you a second hint. If you still can't beat the level, you'll get a third hint. However, you can get those hints faster if you want; you can pay Ollars (the currency you collect in Scribblenauts, which you earn after beating levels) to unlock them. As I found out myself, sometimes the hints don't help much. In fact, there are moments when the hints may leave you even more stumped. But that's not all. In some levels, where you must accomplish a series of tasks, you'll get new hints for every section; and if you're stuck in a section, you'll have to pay for the additional hints for that section. In other words, if you have really no idea what to do, you might pay over a thousand Ollars in a single level. That's possible. And each time you complete a level, you only get 200 Ollars.

As was the case in the first Scribblenauts, Maxwell doesn't as much fights off the forces of evil as he helps people, regardless of their problems, and takes on some rather surprising careers. One Starite demands that he goes through cop training. In another, he helps Santa, who lost his list, to deliver gifts to four houses. It's just a random selection of people that Maxwell helps thanks to his magical notepad. Yeah, there's still no plot here, but there's a final boss nonetheless.

I told you I didn' trust him!
The final level in Puzzle Mode has Llewxam piloting a UFO and abducting plenty of humans... and a Starite! Maxwell takes flight, then attacks Llewxam's UFO by attacking him with the stars he has uncovered in the many constellations he created. In the end, the UFO crashes, possibly killing Llewxam, and the Starite is destroyed. So Maxwell has to summon a fake Starite by himself, which will repair the real one, apparently! He thus summons a fake Starite, the real one appears, he picks it up, the usual victory jingle plays. Roll credits.

Still not enough? You can make your own levels! Choose 1 of 9 environments, and then choose between 16 different actions Maxwell will have to do to complete the level. Then, edit the field, add the items that will already be on the field, add water or lava if you want, set the color of the sky, a different background image, a different set of tiles, a difficulty, a title, an introductory text... After which you can test your level. And then you can save it. Great!

Oh, Super Scribblenauts is still a super awesome game, just like Scribblenauts was awesome. And no, before you ask, you're not always allowed to pummel your way through a mission by killing the enemy party, because it's an automatic loss. You need to be smarter than that. Whenever I play in Free Mode, I summon big monsters, I make them fight, I toy around with the adjectives, I create a utopia or a dystopia, I make unnatural abominations (like a fast snail, or a small giant, or a flying pig, or a nice lawyer). I play around with the people and creatures, their sizes, their other attributes, and that's so much fun! That's the core fun of Super Scribblenauts, simply going a step beyond its predecessor and offering more options than you'll ever get to see during your lifetime. The puzzles are fun as well, no surprise there, and I actually think they're a little better here. There was just something about the 220 levels in the original Scribblenauts game that kinda annoyed me. Perhaps it was the mix of puzzle and action levels... or perhaps it was the fact that every single level, aside from the Tutorials of course, had to be completed three times... Here, there's only what, 120 levels? I'd say between 120 and 130. It's still pretty impressive, and you're gonna have a hard time beating the crowned levels three times. But it's still a lot of fun, and the challenge is there, so that's pretty great.

Some bugs from the original game have been ironed out, though a few more may have been added due to the adjectives. The art is still pretty much the same, and the music isn't much different, but once again both fit the feeling of the game really well. The only problem is that, while you can get corrected the names of objects, the game won't ask to correct adjectives spelled wrong, which means you'll have to spell it right or see it get crossed off. In the end, I greatly enjoyed Super Scribblenauts and I strongly suggest it to anyone who believes that the pen is mightier than the sword. But if your pen lets you summon a mighty sword, that's awesome. The victory of vocabulary over vile violence!

So, you've got a near-unlimited list of nouns. You've got a large list of adjectives to use on these nouns. What's the next step: Adverbs? Prepositions? Verbs? Idioms? Jargon? Nope! The sequel to Super Scribblenauts is called Scribblenauts Unlimited, and it lets you create your own objects. Sadly, I won't get to try it, since it's on the Wii U. However, the game after that is Scribblenauts Unmasked, on the Nintendo 3DS, in which you can call forth over 2,000 characters from DC Comics, including variations on the same characters (like different forms Superman took over the years), villains, secondary characters, and even obscure characters almost nobody knows about except big-time comic fans! That's pretty damn impressive. When's the Marvel edition? ...Joke aside, though, it sounds really great, but it's not for me. I don't know enough about comics, I wouldn't be able to use that game to its full potential. As such, Super Scribblenauts might be the last Scribblenauts game I'll review. But we never know... Something could happen and make me want to review any of those two games... After all, nobody can predict the future.

Next week, someone else will be writing for the site... Who? Why? You'll find out soon!