Scribblenauts Unlimited brings the whimsy like almost nothing else. Unfortunately, it does not really bring much else to the table.
So here is the quick rundown: you play as Maxwell. He is a cartoon man. For some unknown reason, the entire world seems too inept to do anything on their own and need Maxwell’s help. Maxwell is, for some again, unknown reason, a superhero whose superpower is to create objects and people out of thin air. Say, for example, Max needs to get a cat down from a tree – he could create a ladder to climb the tree and save the cat, or perhaps you could create a dog to chase the cat down from the tree, or maybe a chainsaw to chop down the tree. Or, take my solution and create a friendly, flaming dinosaur with wings to ride upon and grab the cat from the tree. All you have to do is bring up your magic keyboard, type in that object, and it appears out of thin air. Unless it’s beer or boobs.
This is what Scribblenauts Unlimited does best: the magician’s hat mechanic of pulling almost anything out of thin air is the main thrust of the game, the main reason you want to play it and also one of the main reasons it falls apart at the seams. Even though I’m trying to avoid sounding like a back of the box quote, the only limitation to the gameplay is your imagination. Except it isn’t. The only limitation to the gameplay IS your imagination.
In Scribblenauts Unlimited, there are more words than you have had access to before. More nouns, more adjectives, and this time Nintendo stalwarts even make an appearance. As you would expect it allows for the puzzles to become more varied and the player’s creativity to become even more ingenious. However there are only so many times you can create a rocket launcher in a destroy this type puzzle or a jetpack when an NPC wants to fly. Going into Scribblenauts, you may think, “yeah, I’m a dreamer, my imagination is a vast as…a…really vast thing. Yeah”, but when you sit down to solve some puzzles as Maxwell, you realise that you will just create a dinosaur over and over again. Which makes the hundreds and hundreds times you’ll do it, very repetitive.
On top of this the puzzles are hugely simplistic and, most of the time, require very little thought. If you have played any Scribblenauts entry before, there are very few newer ideas, which means there is very little impetus to dip into any swathes of imagination you might possess. Every now and again you will begin to start thinking in a more lateral fashion and really far fetched answers to really far fetched riddles, and it’s awesome when you do. However, more often than not you will be left feeling out of sync with the worlds logic and you will leave feeling bemused and frustrated.
Speaking of the world, Scribblenauts Unlimited expands Maxwell’s universe beyond what was in previous iterations in the franchise. 5th Cell have produced 38 levels, that feature upwards of 12 different puzzles that are spread across multiple types of environment. It does stop the game looking repetitive and does add a sense of exploration to the game as you move through the puzzles. Although you don’t have to stick to them. You can jump backwards and forwards between levels at will, or even stop halfway through puzzling in a level just to mess around for a bit. It has that sandbox styling which is very popular nowadays.
There is also somewhat of a backstory. Well, kinda. It’s all about Maxwell trying to find Starites, the reward for solving puzzles, to save his sister, Lily. Along the way, he’ll bump into one of his other 40…yes, 40, siblings. It’s a story about being good to people and all that other sappy stuff – but, with that message embedded in the barely existing story, it opens up the game to be a fantastic educational tool. Scribblenauts will teach kids to not only think logically and laterally, and teach them how to spell. They will be wrapped up in the not only the beautiful looking HD cartoon visuals and cheery soundtrack, but the left field absurdity of some the games scenarios will have them giggling while you play.
It’s also pretty damn good with friends too. Two minds are better than one, so even more minds can lead to the far fetched puzzles to be solved, usually in some hilarious way. This multiplayer element is the big plus to putting the title on the Nintendo Wii U. One person will sit with the gamepad, with all the clutter of the UI on that screen, leaving the TV to just be for the game’s visuals and a display of the letters that are being typed on the gamepad. It’s great, when others want to see you play at least. When playing on your own, you will be hunched over the gamepad treating it like a handheld system.
The only stand out new feature in Scribblenauts Unlimited is the object editor. Pick any object and you can change almost anything about it. Take a dog, make it green. Add wheels, minus gravity. That’s just the basics of it. It sounds pretty cool, but, just like the Little Big Planet create mode, to really get the most of it you will have to spend a lot of time with it. For the patient, creative types, it could open up a new level of the experience. If not, you can just wait for them to be uploaded and shared in the menus.
All in all, Scribblenauts unlimited is a decent game. It is funny, educational and spews oodles of charm. On the other hand, at the same time, it also can prove to be a frustrating experience, lacking in depth, value for money, with strange curves of difficulty. You will be able to sit and collect every Starite in a matter of just a few hours and after that, there’s not much to do.
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This article was first posted on March 25, 2013