In concept, the original Scribblenauts was pretty mind-blowing. Using nothing more than a touch screen keyboard, a stylus and a little imagination, players could bring to life any object that they could spell. Struggling to cross that gaping 10ft gap in the ground? Write the word 'jetpack' and watch as your character sails across. Can't kill those sword-wielding samurais? Call in Cthulu and marvel as he tears them limb from limb. Genius. In execution, however, the game was let down by a flawed control scheme and puzzles that could be solved the same way time and time again. Super Scribblenauts attempts to fix all that, and offers a host of new features and game modes to boot.
The original game's controls were easily its biggest downfall. With the responsibility of navigation and movement both falling to the touch screen, the game quickly became frustrating. This time around, the D-Pad has come to save the day, allowing players to pan around the environment regardless of where Maxwell is within it. The touch controls have also been revised: rather than tapping out a destination for Maxwell, players can now swipe in the intended direction to get him from A to B. Super Scribblenauts removes all the logistical limitations of puzzle solving, allowing players to concentrate on using their noggins and being creative - that's the theory, at any rate.
In addition to these fundamental fixes, Super Scribblenauts ups its game with the inclusion of adjectives. This might sound mundane, but it's a huge deal. Not only can you write objects into existence, but you can determine their colour, temperature, size, texture or emotion. The scope for creative puzzle solving is therefore immense, and gives rise to some genuinely hilarious combinations. 'Hairy Bungalow' was the comical highpoint of my time with the game; as expected, this spawned a bungalow covered in fur into the game world. While the sight of such an object was humorous, it was the sexual connotations of the phrase itself that had me in stitches (but then I'm easily amused).
The puzzles have been designed more carefully this time around too. In the first game, players could conquer most situations using little more than three objects: a black hole, a jetpack and Cthulu. It took all the fun out of solving a puzzle, and gave players an easy out if they were struggling even a little. In Super Scribblenauts each puzzle has a very specific answer, meaning players will need to engage their brains as opposed to summoning the biggest mythological creature they can think of.
One of the puzzles I got to try out for myself involved waiting in line at a game shop for the midnight launch of Super Scribblenauts. The trouble was, there's only one copy of the game left, and the queue is about six people long. The idea is to spawn the correct objects so that you'll get the game before everybody else. It sounds easy, but the game demands a very particular way of thinking. Spawn the ever-trusty jetpack, for example, and the customers will notice you've cut the queue. No good. Spawn a gun to shoot your way to the front doesn't work either - killing people is bad, apparently. The correct answer involves spawning an appropriate gift for each person in the queue. They're each dressed differently, and will leave the queue if you present them with an item that relates to their appearance. The fireman, for example, will get out of the way if you give him an axe.
While a puzzle of this ilk has a very specific answer, and you can't spam Cthulu to beat it, the solution doesn't necessarily make sense in context with the level. These people are queuing for a game – why would they leave the queue based on a random object they're given based on their profession? Undoubtedly I'm reading into the scenario too much, but it would have been nice to have a variety of acceptable answers that would work in the scenario.
Super Scribblenauts feels less like a sequel and more like the game the original should have been. This justifies the addition of the word 'Super', perhaps, as well as explaining the lack of the number '2' in the title. For those that missed out on Scribblenauts the first time round, this could well be the perfect excuse to see what all the fuss was about.
Super Scribblenauts will be available for the Nintendo DS on November 22