Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure (Wii U eShop) Review
The Scribblenauts franchise is starting to lose some of the wow factor it had back when it debuted many years ago on the Nintendo DS. That’s not to say that it’s not still remarkable just how the developer seems to have programmed in every relationship and object under the sun – it still is. But with each game I grow more and more tired of the series. Scribblenauts Unmasked is essentially a Scribblenauts game with a DC Comics skin applied over the top of it. Given DC’s current burst of popularity with Injustice as well as films such as Batman and Superman in cinema, it seems like a right fit. But what I wasn’t prepared for was just how fun and enjoyable it would be – even for someone like me who isn’t an explicit DC fan.
As per with previous games, players step into the little shoes of Maxwell, a young boy with a magic notebook that can spawn anything he writes into it. Through some kind of misbehaving, or just plain bad luck, Maxwell and Lily are transported to the DC universe. Having her magic globe broken (which facilitates their inter dimensional travel), Lily and Maxwell set off on an adventure, meandering with the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Batman and all their associated villains to restore the magic globe and get back home. As I said previously, you don’t need to be a DC comics fan to enjoy the storyline of Scribblenauts Unmasked – though what little of the references I did pick up I chuckled quite a bit at. You’re bound to have even more fun if you’re a DC fan and well vested in their lore.
Scribblenauts Unmasked remains largely unchanged from previous games in the franchise. Maxwell is given free roam of a specific area (this time, based on areas from DC comics) and can help out citizens, heroes and villains in their day to day tasks. These can be simple – for example in the opening level Commissioner Gordon’s car is broken down and you need to spawn a mechanic to fix it, or Batman might need a new gadget during a fist fight with the Joker. Even solving riddles for the Riddler is enjoyable and lends itself perfectly to the Scribblenauts concept. Scribblenauts Unmasked lets you complete these small missions easily – but the game rewards you for using different items, or even items that aren’t the most obvious solutions in a bid to foster creativity and force you to use your imagination.
I prefer this approach – it helps the player come up with zany solutions and thankfully, Scribblenauts Unmasked has the engine and the mechanics in place to support the most lucid of imaginations. Completing these yields “reputation points” for the player, this unlocks new areas and other puzzles to play through. Some of these reset with each additional visit, so you can try different approaches too, which is nice.
The crux of your fun (and probably the highlights of anyone’s playthrough) is the official story missions. These are the missions that are a little bit more fleshed out, feature cutscenes and dialogue and provide the players with the Starites that Maxwell and Lilly need to get back home. These missions are almost always guaranteed to provide players with a glimpse at an iconic DC hero, villain or even both if you’re lucky. They’re incredibly well designed too, and it’s encouraging to see that 5th Cell were able to apply the DC comics “filter” over their puzzle design that made previous games so great.
There were some (rare) moments where the game didn’t quite let me do exactly what I wanted to do – and these moments were me being admittedly lazy, but it does sometimes feel like the developer wants players to be imaginative, over the top and crazy rather than write a cop-out adjective and just move on to the next mission. These moments are few and far between, however, and they are more a reflection on my own laziness as a player rather than the game’s shortcomings – though the freedom to be slack every now and then would be nice. It’s still appreciated that any number of villains and heroes can be randomly spawned into the field and will fight depending on their alignments – so the freedom is still there to some extent.
The Wii U version also allows a second player to enjoy the powers of any superhero or villain you can spawn into the game, which is a nice touch. The entire game is playable Off-Screen too, though you’ll have to go through the menu to find the option, but it’s totally doable without needing the TV at all, which is to be commended. Something that was a little bit disappointing is that, at the time of writing, there doesn’t seem to be a proper Miiverse for Scribblenauts Unmasked (we were using an Australian account), so we couldn’t post any thoughts or screenshots. Whether this is a publisher oversight or failure of Nintendo’s systems is another question, however.
Scribblenauts: Unmasked is a very enjoyable addition to the Scribblenauts franchise. It’s packed full of content to play through (around eight hours with nearly double that if you complete everything) and it utilises the DC comics universe in a clever way. It’s the best of 5th Cell’s puzzle design that we’ve come to expect from the Scribblenauts games combined with the renowned DC comics universe without bogging itself down in licensing issues or restrictions. If you’re a fan of either Scribblenauts or DC comics, this is a game you’ll want to grab. If you’re not, it’s still a rather lengthy package and at an incredibly appropriate price point too.