Review: Scribblenauts Unlimited (3DS)

Doodle dandy

After enjoying some success with its Drawn to Life title on Nintendo DS, developer 5th Cell set out to create a unique action/puzzler that allowed the player to conjure up almost any object they could think of by merely typing the name of that object into the game. This offered not only a large array of creativity, but also allowed gamers to go wild in trying to come up with the most bizarre ways to solve puzzles. The developer kicked things up a notch with the sequel, this time adding adjectives to the mix and pushing the boundaries of what could be created even further; the same can be said of Scribblenauts Unlimited, as the vocabulary depth is bigger than ever and there are a host of new twists to heighten the experience further.

Past Scribblenauts releases have been fairly short on storyline, tending to allow players to jump right in with their puzzle activities. This time around 5th Cell has chosen to give the game more back-story, thus giving gamers a better glimpse into just why Maxwell is collecting the Starites and what his ultimate goal is in attempting to save his sister from being turned into stone.

While there are some simple platforming aspects in Scribblenauts Unlimited it is, for the most part, a puzzler. What this generally involves is travelling around, meeting the game's characters and helping them solve their problems; to do this you'll have to create objects that can be used to help them out. Sometimes this is just a very simple item and at other times you'll need to use the adjective system to create more specific items. As you complete tasks for other characters, you'll earn the very Starites you seek; sometimes tasks are relatively simple, whereas others involve a bit more ingenuity and time to complete. And there's almost no limit to how creative you can be in the objects you create, another thing that gives this title its unique charm.

Play controls tend to be simple. The majority of your time will be spent on the bottom touchscreen of the 3DS, but there are points where you'll need to use the analogue stick and action buttons in order to progress. While certainly not as pinpoint and responsive as you'd normally see in a straight-up platformer, they are perfectly adequate and functional for the simple navigating you'll need to execute at certain points. The menus are very well organized and the game gives you plenty of pointers early on to help you come to grips with the many functions at your disposal.

It's certainly a shame that the object editor from the Wii U release isn't in this 3DS version, but the developers did toss in a few nice additions to help make up for it. StreetPass and SpotPass are both available and give you a chance to share your solutions to puzzles with other 3DS owners. It's quite fun to see some of the wild and unorthodox puzzle solutions that players come up with, which also offers good incentive for you to try and see if you can outdo them with an even more insane fix.

If you've played any of the previous Scribblenauts titles, you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Unlimited's presentation. The same vibrant, cartoon-like visuals are back and they look as good as ever. It's disappointing that the action couldn't come to life on the 3D top screen, but given the touchscreen requirements it's perfectly understandable. The series — on handhelds at least — hasn't changed too much from its DS beginnings, but there's definitely a sharper look afforded the game by the 3DS system's higher resolution. Sometimes if it's not broken, then there's no need to fix it and that certainly rings true with this 3DS Scribblenauts release.

What can be considered one of the game's real highlights is the amazing musical score you'll be treated to as you make your way through the many areas on Maxwell's journey. Tracks are not only widely varied, but also feature some absolutely phenomenal musical instrument blends and highly catchy tunes. There's also quite a bit of diversity in the tracks that do a fantastic job of reflecting the various locations they inhabit. Sound effects tend to be minimal, but this ends up being a good thing as they don't try to overpower the high quality musical presentation.

Conclusion

Scribblenauts Unlimited on 3DS might lack a few of the more interesting innovations of its Wii U counterpart, but that doesn't keep the experience from still being uniquely fun and captivating. While an object editor and multiplayer co-op would have been nice touches, there's still a lot of puzzle-solving enjoyment to be had. If you're even remotely a fan of the Scribblenaut series, you're going to want to add this charming title to your collection and if for some reason you've yet to take them for a spin yet, now might be a good time to do it. It's still one of the more original gaming experiences out there for those willing to try something a little different.