Review Price £44.99
Available on Nintendo Wii U and 3DS (both tested)
Scribblenauts has always been about the power of imagination. In many ways, the first DS installment was a wondrous thing; your hero, Maxwell, had a magic notebook, and nearly anything you wrote (well, actually, prodded out letter by letter) appeared onscreen. Everyone loved summoning Cthulu and Leviathan and watching them scrap it out. Knight vs Cyborg? Mime in a pit? Bring it on. In fact, we loved this stuff so much that we could almost forget how flawed so much of the gameplay was. Want God on a skateboard? A vampire with a jetpack? Kittens in a basket? Come on, let’s go!
The two succeeding installments, Super Scribblenauts and Scribblenauts Remix, have only improved the core idea, reducing the focus on platforming elements and throwing adjectives into the mix, so that you can decide whether your recently-summoned gorilla is angry, friendly or playful. Now Scribblenauts Unlimited promises to stretch things even further. Unlimited might be pushing it, but this is definitely the biggest, most polished Scribblenauts yet. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best, though.
This time we have a story. Maxwell returns as hero, complete with headphones and cockerel-comb cap, and it’s his job to rescue his sister, Lily, from a curse that is slowly turning her to stone. The only thing that can cure your sis’ is Starites – tiny star-shaped objects – that can be won, either whole or in fragments, by helping people out. It’s up to Maxwell to travel the world, doing good deeds and finding enough Starites to unlock new areas and fix his sister.
This means wandering through a series of locations, all interconnected on a giant world map. Each location will have at least one multi-stage challenge that nets you a full star, plus a series of smaller challenges that win you shards. Basically, it’s all about the puzzles these days. You might have a subway beggar looking to turn their life around, a giant robot dinosaur that has fallen apart, a scout looking to complete his merit badge or a fire station being menaced by zombies. What you have to do is scribble things into existence that will fix the job in hand.
Scribblenauts Unlimited’s biggest strength is that there is always more than one way to skin a cat – though skinning cats is one of the few things that you won’t be doing in the game. As long as an object isn’t vulgar, booze-related or protected by copyright it can usually be summoned into being, and it’s getting harder to find exceptions as the series goes on. Objects can be combined, so if you want to give a bazooka to a chimp or add a jet-engine to a bike, that’s not a problem.
And if you don’t want to play it straight, you don’t have to. Sure, you know that surgeon really wants a scalpel, but wouldn’t a chainsaw be more fun? Why use a fishing rod when dynamite will work? And why stick with a battery when you can use a full-scale nuclear reactor?
The situations are entertaining too. Scenarios run the gamut from haunted mansions to dinosaur theme parks, and this is the biggest Scribblenauts yet in terms of scale. This is a world where superheroes, giant robots, zombies, ninjas and puppies all have their place, and where any problem can be solved with the right kind words. With its distinctive, colourful cartoon graphics and humorous style, it’s a cheerful place to be.
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