Super Scribblenauts arrives a year after the original, which is a pretty short amount of time for a full-blown sequel. The original game was a hugely ambitious attempt to allow the player to create anything they could possibly conceive to both solve puzzles and make their own game levels. Unfortunately, despite the huge vocabulary and inventive concept, the game was let down by mediocre level design and fiddly controls. Super Scribblenauts, on the other hand, has the opportunity to put right what once went wrong, in addition to including a hugely important addition to the gameplay with adjectives, so how does it fare?
Spoiler warning, it fares really well, actually. Instantly, the game feels tighter, much more streamlined and more cohesive than its predecessor did, with a renewed sense of focus. This is exemplified in the single player mode, which does away with the separated 'action' and 'puzzle' stages of the first game, and just gives us a straight set of levels to get our teeth sunk into. Spread over ten worlds, as well as several bonus worlds, which are all presented as constellations in the night sky, this system is wonderfully much more straightforward and unlocks progression in a very pleasing way. After completing a few levels, you'll find yourself able to switch back and forth between a number of worlds, so you're never really confined to just progressively tackling each level as it comes.
As mentioned, the biggest addition to the gameplay are adjectives, allowing players to add properties and characteristics to the already-huge library of nouns that the first game carried. The way the game works is you can type up just about anything you can imagine, that's not copyrighted or naughty, and it will be created in-game. With adjectives, this is taken to a whole new level. Want a zombie? Old news. Want a giant pregnant steel zombie? Now we're getting somewhere. In the game's sandbox mode, which is what boots up as soon as you start the game, the possibilities for crazy fun have just increased significantly. In addition to creating characters and objects with weird and wonderful properties, you can also change the properties of characters by giving them potions.
With regards to gameplay, adjectives are used to create several new level types. Often the player will be asked to compare several panels containing objects, and will have to create objects with adjectives to make them more similar to each other. For instance, one panel may have a blue dog and a red house, while the other panel may just have a red barn - therefore the solution will be to create a blue cow. These levels are kind of a cross between spot the difference and trying to come up with something that corresponds to the developer's intentions, as while for the most part the game is very easy, there are times that you will be stumped on how to proceed. And usually this is because the clue train isn't arriving at sense station, as what you may consider to be real-world solutions don't apply in-game. However, a Professor Layton-reminiscent hint system with several levels is always on hand to help out.
Overall, while the gameplay is easy, it is mostly very enjoyable. The puzzles being thrown at the player are a lot easier to grasp and much more fun to solve than the previous game. What's also much more fun is controlling Maxwell, the fellow in the rubber chicken hat. By default, Maxwell is controlled via the d-pad, while the stylus is used in your right hand to type up words or select objects to interact with them using a simple pop up menu. This is one of the greatest triumphs of the game that was holding back our enjoyment of the first one, and by fixing the controls Scribblenauts loses a lot of the frustration that marred our previous experience and starts to become very, very addictive. Despite the large number of levels, it's all over a bit to soon for us, but maybe that's because we stayed glued to the screen for so long.
Finally, the level editor is back for players wishing to create their own puzzles, and it actually looks and functions like a proper editor this time. There is a lot more control over what gameplay types and puzzles you can create in the game, with some pre-set missions or the ability to create your own, as well as much easier access to key functions. It can seem a little daunting the first time you see all the options and buttons, but it's another really fun feature that is once again improved from the first game. You can both share and receive levels locally and online.
Visually, Super Scribblenauts is identical to its predecessor, which is no bad thing seeing as the art design is as charming as it ever was. The objects and characters you create do seem to be a little less construction paper-y than last time, although maybe that's just us adjusting to the game world, and considering the huge volume of art that would have needed to have been created for these games, it's quite impressive. The music has many familiar tunes, if not lifted directly from the original, which is great if you liked the catchy-yet-weird flutes and odd voices from the first game. Sound effects remain limited, and are not matched as extensively as the visuals are to the various nouns and adjectives.
It's like the developers of Super Scribblenauts looked at the complaints people had about the first game, took them on board, and set out to correct every one of them. Sounds like madness, but it just goes to show that they genuinely cared about making the game more enjoyable for gamers, and by golly they have succeeded. While it's still not a perfect game, and most people won't find themselves leaving the sandbox mode, the controls, single player levels and level editor are all much, much better. If you passed on the first game, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. This is about as sublime an experience as you can have on a handheld, and in the end, it's also a huge amount of fun.