Super Scribblenauts

The “super” in Super Scribblenauts serves two purposes: It subliminally reminds players of the Super Nintendo era’s higher bar for sequels to previously established series (hey, it worked for Super Solitaire) and it hammers home the game’s for-real biggest addition: adjectives. Other welcome refinements have been made to this puzzler mashed up with Mad Libs, like correcting the aggravating physics and enabling movement with the D-pad, but the routine is still there, as you hope your vocabulary and the game’s dictionary play nice with the 120-some brainteasers.

Thing is, Super Scribblenauts’ attempt to become more sophisticated than Scribblenauts has dumbed it down, which is good and bad. The original often frustrated because your creativity went unacknowledged, with your creations ignoring each another: Roosters would stare blankly at the sun instead of crowing at it. Throw adjectives into the mix, and you can mandate behavior. You want a murderous bowl of chili to go on a killing spree? Not a problem. Alas, you’re seldom called upon to come up with such childish concoctions. When asked to populate a city with buildings, it doesn’t make a difference whether you dream up a “wet orange post office” when a boring normal one will do just fine.

Perhaps conceding to Scribblenauts’ needlessly segregated level arrangements between “action” and “puzzle,” almost all of Super Scribblenauts is divided between “puzzle” and “adjective.” (Mercifully, a couple of “action” levels are thrown in as bonuses.) The adjective levels are easily Super Scribblenauts’ weakest aspect; they ask you to fill in loose addition and subtraction equations to explain, say, what makes a clown (a funny man and a rainbow wig). They’re fine distractions, but they suffer from the same fuzzy logic that bogged down the original. One such level requires creating something with properties similar to a dwelling and a hairy creature: “furry cave” isn’t acceptable, but “furry house” is.

So once again, players will spend a lot of their time playing wordsmith Whack-A-Mole, praying the game’s sizeable dictionary will cooperate. Its spottiness unintentionally encourages players to play it safe, relying on standbys instead of experimenting. Fortunately, Super Scribblenauts truly excels in more ambitious levels that push you to think of synonyms or loads of items that fall into the same category, like decorating a house, or going through boot camp with the proper gear. This doesn’t feel like a proper sequel, nor is it all that “super,” but Super Scribblenauts is at least a solid step in the right direction.