Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts on the Nintendo DS were both games that allowed players to creatively think up different ways of solving simple puzzles. While the games weren't completely open-ended, players could progress through the games however they wanted to, and that's where the series gets its charm. The third entry in the series, Scribblenauts Unlimited, marks the franchise's first foray onto a console-based platform, but while it features nice nuances, it just doesn't feel like it took that next step to pure console gaming.
What Is It About?
The game begins with a lighthearted narration by the main character Maxwell's sister, as she talks about the family as if reading out of a children's storybook. To make the introduction short, Maxwell and his sister are given two gifts — a globe that allows the user to travel wherever they want in the world and a notebook that brings every word written in it to life.
Following the "boys will be boys" mantra, when a beggar asks Maxwell for something to eat, he creates a poisonous apple and gives it to the poor old man Unfortunately for Maxwell and his sister, the old man ends up being an all-powerful wizard that casts a spell slowly turning Maxwell's sister into stone. In order to reverse the curse, Maxwell has to venture out and collect starites, glowing star bits that appear whenever Maxwell does something nice for someone.
Why Should I Care?
For those unfamiliar with the Scribblenauts series, it's essentially a 2D sidescrolling sandbox game. The favors Maxwell does for people all rely on the player's creativity with the magic notebook. Like Super Scribblenauts before it, Scribblenauts Unlimited allows you to pair adjectives with nouns for even more zany objects to appear on screen.
For example, in one of the game's first levels, there's a little girl trying to get her cat off a tree. You can go the easy route and write the word "ladder" in the notebook to make a ladder appear and climb the poor little kitty back to safety. Or you can think out of the box here by creating an axe and cutting the tree down.
The fact that you have almost an entire vocabulary in your fingertips is the gimmick here. Of course, being a game for everyone, sexual innuendos or overly violent phrases won't work. Proper nouns, unless they're Nintendo characters like Mario and Link, won't work either. (Yes, popular characters from the Mushroom Kingdom and Hyrule can be summoned in the Wii U version of Scribblenauts Unlimited). An Obama-looking figure does pop out of the book when you write "president" though …
The freedom you have with the magic notebook is taken up another notch thanks to the game's creation tool. You can start with an object already in the game and can edit it however you like. Ever want a purple pet eagle with a basketball attached to his head? You can have one. We don't know why, but it's an option. Again, as long as it's not totally derogatory, it's probably possible in Scribblenauts Unlimited.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
There's a lot to like about Scribblenauts Unlimited, but hardcore gamers can get bored of the gimmick rather quickly. The puzzles in this game are ridiculously easy and the game as a whole shouldn't take more than about 8 hours to complete.
On top of that, while Unlimited may have been meant to be the series' first real entry onto a home platform, it still feels like a DS game. It's nice that you can see everything you're doing in colorful high definition, but it becomes cumbersome trying to figure out where to tap on the touchscreen when looking at the TV. Aside from a very dry multiplayer component, the action on the TV is almost unneeded, making the game feel like a handheld game but not portable. If anything, the only real advantage to having the game displayed on the TV is so people can laugh at all the things you're creating on the big screen.
Criticisms aside, Scribblenauts Unlimited is an enjoyable experience that should be even more fun for those who have never tried a game in the series before. But as fun as it is, it's hard to warrant picking this up for $60 when you can get the 3DS version for at least $20 less.