Maxwell's back and he's brought some liscensed friends this time around. Is fan service enough to push Scribblenauts to the next level?
Scribblenauts is one of those franchises that saw tons of onset hype, seen several sequels, and lost a bit of its luster with each iteration. From the beginning, the experience has featured an incredible database of words and hand-drawn art to provide the ultimate sandbox of word related creativity. And though the game was once the most talked about game at E3, the actual gameplay brought forth in the first title was a disappointment.
With each iteration, Scribblenauts has seen improvements to the formula, showing that the team at 5th Cell not only is extremely creative and dedicated to their games, but that they also listen to their fans. Super Scribblenauts saw improved controls along with the addition of adjectives to improve on the original experience while Scribblenauts: Unlimited gave us an interconnected world and the ability to create our own objects to be added into the dictionary. All in all, Scribblenauts has continuously improved as a sandbox with each iteration but unfortunately, the same problem has consisted throughout: lack of reward for over-the-top creativity.
Enter Scribblenauts: Unmasked, the unholy alliance of Scribblenauts and DC Comics to bring yet another veritable sandbox for gamers to play with. In addition to the common words we’re used to, 5th Cell has added in over 2000 words and characters related to the DC universe. So, if you’ve ever had the inkling to summon any DC character or object at a whim, Scribblenauts: Unmasked can fill that craving. Unfortunately, though, unless you’re a huge fan of the comic universe, there’s not much reason to play this game over one of the previous versions.
Scribblenauts: Unmasked follows a similar formula to Unlimited where you’ll explore several different locales looking to solve the problems of those you come in contact with. For the comic book fan, this means you’ll be travelling through different landmarks in the DC universe. I’ve always enjoyed cartoons, movies, etc. but I must say I’ve never been as into comics as most geeks out there. Thus, though I knew several of the characters and objects from the shows I’ve watched over the years, I didn’t get the same level of enjoyment as would a comic book aficionado. And therein lies the issue with this game: its niche appeal limits the gameplay for anyone without a breadth of DC knowledge. Thus, unless the gameplay itself is completely new and fresh compared to its predecessors, there’s not much motivation to play it for anyone but the most avid DC game.
There are aids for those of us less familiar with the universe such as the Batcomputer, which lists all of the available characters in a visual encyclopedia style format. Aside from being extremely impressed with the level of detail 5th Cell has given to providing DC references, however, I found two major problems with using the dictionary: first of all, having to check and read through it interrupts the flow of the gameplay and second of all, the availability of the dictionary destroys the mystery and enjoyment of discovering included characters by summoning them with words. Again, I must emphasize that a DC aficionado will eat this up but for everyone else, it just feels like the mechanical solutions to an unfamiliar test.
If you do manage to play through the entire experience, you’ll be capped at around 12 hours of gameplay through the main game. Though this seems a bit short, the real value, as always, is in the number of solutions possible for solving the numerous puzzles. Fortunately, players are finally rewarded for their creativity through reputation points that are used for unlockables. Streetpass also comes into play on the 3DS version of the game by allowing you to unlock costumes for Maxwell.
The other issue I had when reviewing the 3DS version, though, is that like Scribblenauts: Unlimited, the portability does not make up for the removal of the game’s character creator. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, the character creator in the Wii U and PC versions of the game seems to be a neat addition to the sandbox-nature of the game and I’m a little bummed that it wasn’t available in my version of the game. The other obvious disadvantage to the 3DS version of the game is that the Wii U and PC versions are in true HD and the screen real estate is much more vast. Thus, with more on the screen at any given time, it’s easier to take in the environments and charcters.
The perk of the handheld version, however, is that essentially the exact same game is available in portable format (better in my opinion) for $20 less ($39.99) than the Wii U version ($59.99). This makes it difficult to recommend the Wii U version as well despite having not reviewed it myself. However, at the same MSRP as the 3DS, the PC version seems to be the best choice if you’re looking to pick this one up (and you can pick it up on Steam for 25% off if you own Scribblenauts Unlimited!).