Scribblenauts Unlimited (Wii U) Review

There are not many games that I can think of that allow you to create an angry giant turkey to defeat a dinosaur; actually, Scribblenauts IS the only one.  Scribblenauts Unlimited is here and I had a chance to review the Wii U version.  Once again the team at 5th Cell is at the helm, but for the first time it graces a home console as it was only on handheld consoles before.  Finally being able to see the world of Scribblenauts on your big TV in full HD is pleasant to the eyes and opens your imagination as you show off to whomever else is watching how creative you can be.

Whenever I find a game that my wife and I can enjoy together it is always a bonus.  Even as a non-gamer she has enjoyed the Scribblenauts franchise since it was first released, and being able to finally share the experience on our TV together can bring a lot of smiles to our faces.  She loves it because there is no wrong way to play, and seeing others solve puzzles in a completely different way than you would is actually sometimes more entertaining than doing it yourself.  For example, when I tasked to get rid of the long grass in front of a house I simply used a lawnmower.  Clearly I’m too logical.  When a friend replayed the same puzzle he used a flamethrower to burn the grass down, but then the house caught fire and burned down too.  Both solutions worked but yet they are completely different ways of thinking from different forms of imagination; this is how Scribblenauts shines…when it lets you.

Previous Scribblenauts games have never really had much of a story to them and they were always simply set up as a progression puzzle based system.  Now for the first time in the franchise we get to have a real story of how Maxwell got his magical notebook as well as a bit of his family’s backstory.  Maxwell has 41 siblings, including his twin sister Lily, and was given a magic notebook that allows anything he can imagine to come to life when it is written down.  One day Maxwell happens upon an old man and as a joke he conjures up a rotten apple and gives it to him.  The old man becomes angry and tells Maxwell that he is spoiled; upon doing so he also places a curse on Lily, slowly turning her into stone.  To save his sister Maxwell must collect Starites and the only way to do this is to solve puzzles.   This gives you the motivation to continue on.

The core mechanics behind Scribblenauts Unlimited remains vastly unchanged from previous iterations.  You can type almost any word (save for vulgar, copy righted material, and specific no-no words) and what you write is visually represented in the game world.  Not everything will react the way you think though.  You need to collect Starites by solving puzzles and helping people with their tasks or problems.  If an object is not working the way you thought it would, simply create a new object and assign it the distinctive properties that will allow it to react or function the way you want it to.  So, if you really need a turtle with wheels instead of feet to solve a puzzle then simply create it and save it to use whenever you like (though make sure to add a Mohawk to the turtle for good measure, it always seems to help).

Unlike the previous games that had a very linear progression by choosing individual puzzles to solve in succession, Scribblenauts Unlimited opens the game up with a large overworld that can be played in any order, allowing you to jump from area to area to mix things up.  Scribblenauts Unlimited felt more like exploration whereas the previous games were very restricted.  Since you will be moving around in each area, Maxwell has a new Starite Vision that helps you highlight nearby people, and things, that need your assistance before they will give up their Starites and Starite Shards.  Think of it as the detective mode from the latest Batman Arkham game, but this time around it gives you clues of where to go to earn those Starites.  Sometimes you will need to solve a series of puzzles to earn a full Starite, and in these challenges you will have to solve multiple puzzles to continue on and earn your reward.  Each area will tell you how many full Starites and how many Starite Shards (collecting ten shards will earn you a Starite) there are for you to earn.

In this latest Scribblenauts game you now have the ability to attach multiple objects together to make some very unique creations, especially if you use your imagination.  Why not tether an anvil to a pterodactyl to take care of a robber?  Or add some adjectives to make some unique creations, like a friendly shark with wheels to use to get Maxwell around.  Many puzzles can be solved this way.  For example, there was a heart chasing around a girl and I had to stop it; I simply added “friendly” to the heart and voila, puzzle solved.  Sure, you could create a gun and stop it that way, but where’s the creativity in that?  Another time I had to help a penguin burglar steal a diamond but there was a camera and security guard watching.  I simply added “broken” to the camera and “blind” to the person.  Presto!  As a side note, I tried creating a T-Rex for this puzzle and all he did was attack everyone else in the area; like I said, not every creation will react the way you think it will.

If you are like me you will probably use many of the same objects over and over again in multiple puzzles.  I almost always have Maxwell equipped with a jetpack to make him get around quicker.  Any item you create can be saved in his magic backpack for easy access later on.  The same goes for your custom creations, as they can be saved, allowing them to be created on a whim when needed as well.

I was quite excited when I learned that Scribblenauts Unlimited was going to have a multiplayer mode included, though I was not really sure what to expect.  That mode has one player using the GamePad and up to three friends can join using Wii Remotes and they can take control of any object in the game.  While it is funny to harass the person playing as Maxwell by moving the on-screen objects around, it was a little disappointing to learn this was the only form multiplayer that was included.  Even my wife did not seem that interested in being able to move around the blue stove I just spawned.

It seems the folks at 5th Cell made some friends at Nintendo.  Scribblenauts Unlimited is a launch title and Nintendo gave them permission to include officially licensed characters in the game.  You can type in the word Zelda, Link, Ganondorf, Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and more and then see them pop into your world in the distinct Scribblenauts art style.  There is a catch though, as these characters cannot be edited any further, which was a little bit of a letdown, though I completely understand why.  That being said, it is a neat addition to the Wii U version of Scribblenauts Unlimited, though not a defining reason to purchase this version specifically if you are contemplating which one to get.

Scribblenauts Unlimited suffers from one noticeable problem this time around; the majority of the puzzles are way too easy in general and do not always allow your creativity to shine fully through to solve them.  Many times I tried to think completely out of the box just to try something different, but many times I had to resort to old faithfuls like “gun” or adding simple adjectives to objects instead of trying completely whacky solutions. The flipside to this is that the shard-giving puzzles happen so quickly and frequently that you are almost always constantly thinking of new situations and what-ifs, which is vastly different from the previous games.

The last thing to note is that Scribblenauts Unlimited allows you to play completely on the GamePad screen.  There are two caveats to this though; the first being is that it is single player only, and the second is that it does not look as crisp or “HD” as it does on your nice large TV.   At first I was thinking of this being a negative, but realistically, you never really do look at the TV given that you type on the touchscreen notepad that is on the GamePad anyways.  This occurred to me when I was playing for a while and I took a quick break to get a drink.  I discovered that my wife had been watching TV for around a half hour without me even noticing.  So keep in mind that while the game does look gorgeous in full HD on your TV, you will look at the GamePad screen more anyhow.

It is odd, Scribblenauts Unlimited is finally on a home console but it never feels like it since you never really have to look at the TV that much if any.  If you are a creative person and want a game that promotes imagination, or simply looking to have a relaxing time in short spurts creating unheard of objects, Scribblenauts Unlimited is a great choice to play on your new Wii U console. That being said, do not be surprised if you are a little too creative for the game.

The Good


The Bad