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REVIEW | Imaginations Run Wild In “Scribblenauts Unlimited”

By
Posted on January 14, 2013 AT 11:50am

The Scribblenauts series has always brought the best — and sometimes worst — of everyone’s imagination alive in a video game. Where else could you have Santa Claus battle Cthulhu in a desert setting, or a fancy top hat-wearing robot ride a purple donkey? In the new Scribblenauts Unlimited for the Wii U the world of Maxwell and his magic notebook has expanded, as have the limits of what you can create.

Right off the bat players will notice something different about this foray in the Scribblenauts series: the addition of an actual plotline. Here Maxwell must collect enough Starites to save his sister Lily from turning into stone, a curse brought upon the siblings by a wizard Maxwell pulled a prank on. Each of the over 50 levels are connected in a nice side-scrolling sandbox-style, though you can easily jump from level to level via the world map. These levels all feature at least one Starite to collect, as well as pieces of Starites to make one full one throughout the level.

Traveling throughout areas in land, sea, air, and space you will come across many different tasks, and the only thing needed to complete them are your magic notebook and your keen imagination. You can create just about anything (though up to a PG-rated stance, as no “vulgar” words are included in the vocabulary), and see if they solve the puzzle at hand. In some cases you’ll find yourself having to choose between two paths. For example in an early forest level you can either protect a tree from being cut down, or you can help the woodsman topple the mighty Redwood down. You can always reset the level to do both, and fortunately your progress in each area will be saved so you don’t have to repeat all the tasks you’ve done previously. That said it will be hard not to retry a challenge to see what kind of results you’ll get.

Playing on the Wii U Scribblenauts Unlimited is as responsive as its DS and iOS counterparts. Just using the GamePad screen to type in your creations is as simple as it is on the other variations. You might find yourself looking at your controller more than your TV screen, which is a bit of a downer seeing as watching Maxwell doing his thing is such a thrill on the big screen. Perhaps the big screen does come in handy for those in the room watching you play, but it would’ve been nice to be able to lift your head once in awhile. Up to three friends with Wiimotes can also join in on the fun with Sidekick mode, which has them selecting an object onscreen and controlling them to see what kind of craziness will happen.

New to the Scribblenauts series is the Object Editor. Here you can piece together your own monstrous creation, and have it react however you’d like. If you want a robot/bunny hybrid that explodes if eaten, you can do that; if you wish to take a lion and give the body of the zebra and the wings of an eagle, then there’s no stopping you; if you desire a werewolf/zombie/vampire mash-up that enjoys the taste of vegetables instead of human flesh, then go right ahead! You can then save your creations and share them all over the world in Punctuation Plaza, where you can download and store up to 900 of these creations in the game.

Completing all the levels in Scribblenauts Unlimited will take you roughly over ten hours, and that doesn’t even cover all the miscellaneous challenges you can complete in any level. (Some of them, including one involving Don Quixote, will take a lot of brain power to solve.) With many ways to create solutions to the various problems you’ll have no reason not to revisit a level and see what happens if you try something else. Although Punctuation Plaza is a cool setup it would’ve been neat to see an online mode where you and a group of online players need to team up to solve the puzzles (or, at the very least, create things and have them fight to the finish in a tournament mode).

PROS:

  • Loads of creative ways to solve puzzles
  • Series’ trademark humor still intact
  • Object Editor and Punctuation Plaza a nice addition

CONS:

  • You’ll be looking more at the GamePad screen than the TV
  • No online play modes

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Scribblenauts Unlimited is an imaginative romp for all ages, and it is a great improvement in the creativity department thanks to the power of the Wii U. It’s the type of game that can be played alone, but is a lot more fun if you have friends shouting suggestions to solve the puzzles at hand. 5th Cell has truly outdone themselves with Maxwell’s latest adventure, leading me to wonder what might be next in the life of the rooster-hatted boy’s journey.

FINAL GRADE: 9.2 (out of ten)

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck




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