The original Scribblenauts, released last year for the DS, promised: "Write anything. Solve everything." It's a mantra that's continued in this year's follow-up, Super Scribblenauts, a more polished and equally ingenious package that renders you a puppet-master and veritable creator god.
Speaking of God, he's one of the objects you can create in the game—along with zombies. It's a pair that gave way to the "God vs. zombie" battles we've all seen play out in the first installment of this series. You see, the Scribblenauts games grant you the ability to scribble any of your diabolical mind-drippings into existence: space shuttles, nautili, chimeras, the Grim Reaper, a pizza, flowers, yo-yos, whatever. Use these objects to solve puzzles, dispatch enemies or overcome obstacles. For example, draw a bridge (actually, you'll type the word "bridge" into the game using the DS stylus) to cross a pit of molten lava, or help a hairdresser transform brunettes into blondes by conjuring up some bleach or dye. It was a novel formula that gave gamers a level of control and creativity we've never seen before.
What's different in the sequel? The use of adjectives, for one. In the original game, your descriptors were damned, as "undead giraffe" would have simply yielded a run-of-the mill giraffe. But in Super Scribblenauts, the inclusion of adjectives not only increases the capacity for kooky gameplay, but it's also a focal point in many levels. In one level, you'll face off against a witch who'll summon a menagerie of beasts, and your mission is to scribble your own monsters "of opposite adjectives" to do battle. If the witch sics a hot golem at you, you'd best make a cold cockatrice, or a slow sandworm to her fast one. Simplistic examples, but you get the idea—and as the game progresses, all of the challenges become more complex and trickier to solve. There aren't any instances in life where you'd encounter a "large polka-dotted igloo" or "flying white prosciutto," but in Super Scribblenauts, they're simply weapons in your arsenal.
An improvement over the first game is the tightened controls, and the ability to control your character (Maxwell the Scribblenaut) with the D-pad instead of the touch screen and the stylus. There's also a selection of wonderfully detailed Maxwell avatars from which to choose, including a hippie, a congresswoman, Baba Yaga, and Ben Franklin, among many others. And don't forget the cool level editor. Choose the terrain, objective, obstacles, and items and then share your creation with the world online.
While the game's concept can be a bit daunting (you can create anything, save for vulgar stuff, proper nouns, or trademarks), it does a great job at guiding you through the tasks, and acquainting you with your powers in a way that doesn't make anything feel overwhelming. It blends your devilish God complex with breezy, cutesy, accessible charm, and is a must for your DS library.
Super Scribblenauts. Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Developer: 5th Cell. Release Date: October 12, 2010. Platform: Nintendo DS. ESRB: E10+. Descriptors: Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief. To purchase, click here.