Review

When the Wii U system was first announced there were a few game franchises that really stuck out as something that would suit the new Nintendo box well. One of those was definitely going to be the popular franchise known as Scribblenauts. The Wii U Gamepad would provide an obvious and easy way to enter text into the game quickly, and with Scribblenauts being so text heavy, it seemed like a no-brainer. Warner Brothers agreed and Scribblenauts Unlimited has hit the system. In many ways the game has translated well to TV based gameplay, and in general, the problems and disappointments can be related to the game and its design rather than it being now on a TV-based system.

Scribblenauts Unlimited again puts us in control of Maxwell and his magic notepad, however this time around there is a bit more storytelling to be found. After a practical joke gone wrong, Maxwell’s sister has been turned to stone and only Maxwell can free her by collecting Starites. To gain Starites, Maxwell has to perform deeds around the game’s world. This is where the first major difference between other Scribblenauts games can be found; its semi open world.

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To move between the various environments you switch to an overworld view. One of the best aspects of Scribblenauts is its utter dedication to keeping focused on language and language terms. Many of the areas you will visit have names such as Inkwell High and Exclamation Point. The game for the younger generation can also be educational with lateral thinking and a fairly strong grasp of the English language required to fully enjoy the game.

This open world theme also reflects in the gameplay. Instead of progressing through small levels and collecting individual Starites, you are instead dropped into a large location such as a city or castle and find characters that are in various states of distress.  For example, you will come across a jester who is finding it hard to make a king laugh or a pilot that needs rescuing.  Once you have come to their aid you gain a shard, and once you gain enough shards, you gain a Starite.

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To help with this you can switch the game into ‘Starite mode,’ where the environment will shine gold where a Starite-holding character can be found. Given the size of these levels and the number of non-player characters present, this is a welcome addition. You can also find a hint or two for those puzzles which have your mind blank.

In general most of the puzzles are solved by doing the following. Find a character who needs some help, read some hints and then come up with a solution. Usually you need to generate an item and then attach it to Maxwell or a character. For example if you need to wash a car you would generate a rag, attach it to Maxwell and tell Maxwell to use the car with the rag. It can seem a bit lengthy but it does not seem too repetitive; however, after a few hours of play, you will probably want to switch off and come back to the game later. It’s not the kind of game you can get engrossed in for hours on end.

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The beauty of Scribblenauts Unlimited is that no two people will really have the same experience. There are multiple solutions to each puzzle and in many ways the real challenge of the game is to come up with some crazy way to solve the puzzles as opposed to something easy. It is the experimentation and exploration that keeps Scribblenauts from becoming boring in the longer term, and with the goal being to collect 50 Starites, it’s not a short game by any stretch of the imagination so you will most likely remain entertained.  As well, when coming up with some unique puzzle solutions, the game will ‘break’ so to speak and various crazy things may happen on the screen that are truly hilarious. Comedy is one of this games strong points.

Perhaps the key change for Scribblenauts this time around is the ability to create your own objects. To do this, 5th Cell has given gamers access to some of the tools which they use to build items and levels themselves.  With the Nintendo Network now in place on the Wii U you are also able to share these items the Punctuation Plaza area of the game. Players who are only interested in finding other players’ items can also head there to search for these items. This really brings a significant social element to the Scribblenauts series and shows how developers can use the Nintendo Network to really bring gamers together, even in games which are primarily designed for single player gaming.

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On the Nintendo Wii U there are a number of unique components. First of all, you can summon a number of Nintendo characters to help with the puzzles such as Link and Mario. As well as this, Off TV Play is fully supported with the game feeling like a high definition DS port when activated. Sit on the couch or bed, and just tap words in. It works really well, with the Wii U Gamepad offering a much simpler control scheme than that we have seen in other Scribblenauts games on the portable systems.

Although the game can be easily controlled with a finger, we found it much easier to play with the stylus in hand. This is obviously a clear carry over from the games’ Nintendo DS roots. We never had a problem with responsiveness from the touch screen, and even though you are then holding the Wii U gamepad with a single hand, it’s not too heavy.

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The game also impresses on the visual side of things. Maxwell has never really been a slouch in the visuals department, and on the Wii U he shines with a graphical style that give the impression of being hand-drawn.  Scribblenauts Unlimited is a game that will continue to hold its own against the latest HD visuals, primarily because it uses a graphical approach that has focused on style over technological prowess.

When it comes down to it, Scribblenauts has made a fantastic jump from the handheld devices to the Wii U system. The gamepad is a perfect controller to maneuver Maxwell with (improving on some of the franchise’s past problems) and also ensures that entering text many times does not become a chore. Scribblenauts Unlimited is a perfect fit for the Wii U Console and something every owner should be looking to play.



About the Author

Choc
Choc is a mysterious industry veteran who has written about games since the year 2000. He has written for many publications including CNET and Gamespot. He has also coded a cool little twitter bot for Aussie classifications.