Inspired by the never-discouraged mailman, the true professional permits no act of nature, chance or evil to interfere with his coverage of a new video game. But what fun could you have with Super Scribblenauts just 10 minutes after your wedding ring disappeared?
I ventured toward Manhattan's west side yesterday around 5pm Eastern, off a subway with the sudden sensation of air making contact with the base of my left ring finger. I glanced at my hand. Wedding ring gone.
We do not panic in situations like these. We think clearly. Walk up and down the subway station steps for the ring, though surely it couldn't have just fallen off. Not there. Reach the surface of Manhattan's footpaths and contact the office. They can't find it. Head to the office near Ninth Ave where I have an appointment to play Super Scribblenauts and accept the offer of the people there to let me spill the contents of my bag. No ring rolled out. Sometime during that, the initial terror - this was my grandfather's wedding ring before it was mine - my wife was on the phone suggesting I had left it home. Doubtful. I'd have noticed it.
The first Scribblenauts was an ambitious and enjoyable game that contained enough flaws to raise hopes that a tweaked sequel from development studio 5th Cell could and would be built without obvious cracks. Spell almost any concrete noun into that original DS game and a virtual object matching it would appear. That was enough for people who used Scribblenauts' opening title screen as their rewritable Book of Genesis. Let there be pigs and robots and underwear and let's see what happens. The game's levels encouraged that player creativity be used to solve the puzzles that vexed hero Maxwell or to reach a landscape's distant treasure (let there be hot air balloons! and machine guns!). The game was controlled with the DS stylus, which would have been fine if Maxwell didn't drop an object or the object didn't bounce away due to some occasional disagreement between Scribblenauts software and Scribblenauts player about what a given tap would do.
When the mind is racing through the variables of how, when and where a wedding ring is lost, the mind might not be ready to judge the quality of new and improved controls for Super Scribblenauts. The mind might not even be ready to conjure items in a DS sequel's menu screen, less so when encouraged to try Super Scribblenauts' best new feature, support of adjectives.
The wedding-ring-worried mind comes up with nothing fancy: Red Box.
In the title screen for Super Scribblenauts, a red box appeared on the ground in the cave-like setting I had chosen to set Maxwell in. I could have chosen a sunny plain. Dark mood, I guess.
The second conjurable thing that comes to mind should be obvious: Lost Wedding Ring.
An alert appears on the DS' upper screen. Something like: "It's alive." On the lower screen, at Maxwell's feet there was no a wedding ring. Not the gold band I had lost. More of a ring with a diamond rock. This ring scampered. It did not stay in one place.
If my ring had fallen off in the subway - it couldn't have, I was playing Picross 3D the whole time - what would someone who found it due with it? How would they ever get it back to me?
I needed to focus. Those new controls. Optional. You can pick d-pad controls and move Maxwell with the DS' directional pad (or face buttons if you hold the stylus in your left hand). The stylus can drag the screen to move the camera. You tap thing to interact with them. Tap and drag them to move them or combine them.
"Microscopic blogger." (My desire to hide from this scary situation?) It rendered a brown-capped writer guy who stood at the height of Maxwell's shoe.
"Mummy blogger." It crossed off "Mummy." Must not have known it could be an adjective.
"Angry striped ostrich." It fought the lost wedding ring.
Let me be a newsman, I thought. "Sambo." Nothing. "Fig leafed gourd." Nothing.
Let me look for inside jokes. "Green lantern." -poof- A lantern that was green. "Iron Man." -poof- A man made of iron.
I could not recall when I had separated from my wedding ring. But I could recall, vaguely, that video game comedy troupe Mega 64 would somehow be in Super Scribblenauts. "Mega 64" spawned the Mega 64 logo. "Kotaku"? The game asked if I meant "Kotuku." Sure. A bird appeared.
I had eaten a juicy plum before I left for this appointment. I had eaten it over my garbage pail at work, then wiped my hands. I would have noticed if I wiped my wedding ring off my hands, yes?
The man who was letting me play Super Scribblenauts suggested we try some levels so I could see how adjectives can be used to solve challenges. Clearing my mind, I agreed.
One challenge: Maxwell was in a room that contained four statues, each of a man in a phase of his life, from baby to bearded senior. Each statue was on top of a lock, each lock a different colour. Writing "red key" spawned a red key that could open the red lock. Green key for green lock. Unlocking the statues in order won me the level.
Another challenge: A man is in a lab and needs to be turned into a dragon. A conjured "green potion" when used on the man turned him green. "Wings" made wings I dragged onto his back. "Scaly potion" completed his transformation. He was a dragon.
Only once did the controls befuddle me, at a moment when I was trying to align Maxwell with a coloured lock in that first challenge. A few taps and it worked, a little touchy, but not too bad. Everything else occurred exactly as I expected it to. The controls are indeed improved.
Someone might have been able to make a joke that, after closing the DS and being done with Super Scribblenauts I next checked out a demo of Lord of the Rings. One man's quest for a ring and all that. Funny how the humour of that was lost on me yesterday. One Lord of the Rings and one Batman game later I was heading home.
The bottom line here? Super Scribblenauts is a good step up from last year's achievement.
But did you want a real ending? The ring wasn't at home. Back in the office, late last night, rummaging through the fourth bag of collected office garbage, past banana peels and soft-drink cans, in the litter of cigarette butts there was a "lost wedding ring". Not one with a diamond rock, but a gold band, like the one my grandfather used to wear. I profess, it was the plum. The stupid, juicy, delicious plumb. The careless man. The patient wife. The near disaster.
Super Scribblenauts will be out for the Nintendo DS this spring.