Oct. 13, 2010 at 12:15 PM ET
Sigh. If only the real world behaved like the world in the new Nintendo DS game "Super Scribblenauts."
If it did, I'd be able to write the words "enormous fire-breathing pink kangaroo" and poof, all my problems – or at least a whole lot of them – would be solved.writer
"Super Scribblenauts" is the sequel to "Scribblenauts," a game that launched last year to heaps of praise and piles of awards (see below video). Yeah, it had some problems, but players were charmed by its unusual premise. Here was a game in which you wrote the word for an object and, poof, that object appeared in your game.
Need to cross a river of molten lava? Write the word "bridge" and one would appear for you. Need to reach the golden star hidden in the tree above you? Write the word "jet pack" and fly there. With tens of thousands of words in the game's database, players were amused to find a host of unexpected objects at their disposal – Cthulu, the Large Hadron Collider, God.
With "Super Scribblenauts" – which launched this week for the Nintendo DS – all the right stuff remains the same while all the less-than-right stuff seems to have been given a good polishing to iron out the hitches and glitches.
Again you write words to summon all manner of objects and combinations of objects to solve a plethora of puzzles put before you – or rather, put before the character you play: a pencil-toting lad named Maxwell. But this time around, the game allows you to write not just words for objects, but adjectives that describe those objects and thus change their look, size and behavior.
Yes, write the words "enormous fire-breathing pink kangaroo" and one will appear. It's up to you to figure out how and if that might actually be helpful.
As in the first "Scribblenauts" game, the sequel has you recovering stars placed in inconvenient places within each level – behind gates or perhaps balanced in precarious locales. But that's just the beginning. There are a variety of puzzles you'll have to smart your way through in order to earn your stars.
For example, in some levels you'll earn stars by figuring out how to help various characters. You'll be asked what object you can give a boy to stop him from feeling afraid or you'll be asked to figure out what object would put a lion to sleep.
And the puzzles are deeper than they were in the first game. In one puzzle, for example, I had to figure out what object to give an archeologist to help him find a hidden city. Then I had to figure out what object to use to dig beneath the city. I had to then arrange the fossils I'd found beneath the city in the proper order. And then I had to figure out what to give the archeologist to help him put the fossils together to form a complete skeleton.
Ultimately, the joy of the game comes from pushing yourself to come up with creative and unexpected solutions to the mind-bogglingly creative/absurd/hilarious problems tossed in your way. In one puzzle, for example, I was asked to make my way to a star hidden behind a series of steel gates. Behind each gate stood an animal – a hyena, a tiger, an ostrich and a peacock. I was told I could not harm these animals or allow these animals to harm each other as I tried to make my way to the star.
I was thrilled when I finally triumphed over the puzzle by using a freeze ray and a pair of winged shoes.
Jeremiah Slaczka – the mastermind behind the game and co-founder of development company 5TH Cell – says that more than 10,000 adjectives and more than 800 objects have been added to the already massive library from the first game. That's a lot of words – and a whole lot of combinations of words – to muck around with.
Meanwhile, the issues that players of the first "Scribblenauts" complained about have been fixed or at least vastly improved upon. You can now control Maxwell with either the D-pad or with the stylus on the DS's touch screen. And those controls have been refined to take out the frustrating sloppiness and inaccuracies from the first game. Additionally, the user interface has been given a nice overhaul – the result being that the game is far more intuitive to play through.
Don't get me wrong, you will be frustrated at times when solutions that seem like they should work simply don't. And there is a learning curve here. It takes a while to figure out how to solve some of the adjective-specific puzzles in particular. You'll certainly welcome the hint system as you try to get your brain around "Super Scribblenauts."
Of course, if I had a freeze ray, a pair of winged shoes and an enormous fire-breathing pink kangaroo here in the real world, I would know exactly how to use them. And I'm telling you ... I would be unstoppable.
Winda Benedetti writes the tiny, ferocious, red Citizen Gamer column for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter.