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Super Scribblenauts

Send in the nouns.

As with the first outing, one of the most reliable guilty pleasures Scribblenauts has to offer is how quickly things can get out of hand. The game's very first mission has you identifying the real Starite trophy from a range of likely packages bundled up in wrapping paper and lodged in the branches of a tree. I conjured a bloodhound to sniff out the genuine article, and then unleashed some fire to burn the tree down. Within seconds, the tree, the packages and a sofa I'd created by accident were all ablaze, and the dog wasn't looking too peachy either.

Such basic improvements aside, Super Scribblenauts' big idea this time around is adjectives. Alongside typing in nouns, you can now modify them and give them qualities. Take fridges as an example. Want a large fridge? A red one? Want it to fly or shimmer like a ghost? All four? The options aren't endless, but they're more elaborate than you'd initially imagine, and the game rarely skips a beat when offering up what you've just ordered.

The campaign does a decent job of bedding the enlarged vocabulary into the central suite of 120 new challenges, but in reality the new tools work best – and Scribblenauts still works best – as a pure sandbox experience. You check to see if something works, and then check to see how it works, and then generally set it on fire or attack it with vampires.

Adjectives aren't as much of a game-changer as simply fixing the controls turned out to be, but they certainly allow you to zone out with Scribblenauts a little longer. For a while last week, I just put wings on everything: wings on donuts, on gas masks, on velociraptors. After that, armed with a flame-thrower and wearing a spacesuit helmet and one of those children's inner tubes with a giraffe's head on it, I'd buzz through skies filled with flying velociraptors, handing out fiery justice – or injustice, depending on whether or not you were a dinosaur. When that got old I made ghosts. Then I made flaming circus animal ghosts. Finally, I made a bunch of headless golfers (adjectives allow you to spawn animals without certain limbs). Then I set fire to them.

Setting things on fire, eh? That's what's brilliant about Scribblenauts, yet it might also be what's holding back the game's missions. The lure of violent exploration is still stronger than the – admittedly improved – campaign mode; random acts of vindictiveness are still more fun than a lot of the challenge content. 5th Cell's clever tech has essentially allowed the DS to play home to a first-class animal cruelty laboratory. Luckily for everyone, it turns out that badger baiting is quite fun when no genuine badgers are harmed, and when you can jet off in a flying ice cream van the moment things start to turn sour.

It's this potential for invention that reminds you why a humble DS offering with divisive art has remained the title you show people when you want to demonstrate the power of videogames. 5th Cell's puzzler was always astonishing, then, but now it's enjoyable to play, too. That's nice. Whether or not you think Super Scribblenauts is a genuine classic depends on how much you like making dinosaurs attack each other, ultimately – but either way, it's unquestionably the game that Scribblenauts should have been the first time around.

8 / 10

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About the Author

Christian Donlan avatar

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.

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