It’s safe to say the Scribblenauts franchise hasn’t had the best of starts on Nintendo Switch. Despite all the charm and charisma in the world, the lifeless Scribblenauts: Showdown somehow took all those likeable qualities, boiled them down to their bare mechanics and packaged them up as a boring party game. Would that be it for Maxwell and his magical notebook on Nintendo’s latest hardware, or could the talented hero put his imagination to good use and doodle up a turnaround?
Thankfully, publisher Warner Bros. Entertainment hasn’t been phased by the misstep that was Showdown, as it’s gone right ahead and optimised two of the strongest instalments in the series - Scribblenauts Unlimited and Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure - and packaged them together in the Scribblenauts Mega Pack. The creative mix of puzzle solving, exploration and platforming has always shined brightest on Nintendo platforms (Unlimited debuted on Wii U and 3DS, after all) and now Switch users get to put their own imaginations to good use.
Despite being an almost-six-year-old game, Scribblenauts Unlimited still represents the series at its quintessential best. The story follows the adventures of Maxwell and his sister Lily, who are bestowed with a magical notebook and an equally mysterious globe by their adventurous parents. The pad enables the user to create anything by writing its name inside, while the globe has the power to whisk you anywhere in the world. However, when Maxwell plays a trick on a gnarled old man, his sister finds her feet have turned to concrete. Now it’s up to our red-helmeted hero to head out into the world and use a collectable resource called Starites to help free her.
The result is a side-scrolling 2D platformer full of silly and surprising locations filled with quests to complete. Each one will require you to pop out your notebook and use the left analog stick and ‘A’ to select a letter from a set of radial wheels. As you write out a particular noun or adjective, a series of potential suggestions appear below. Select one and pop, there it is - and it’s just as broad and deep with potential as it sounds.
Need to rescue a cat from a tree? Sure, you could create a ladder, climb up and rescue it. Or maybe you could draw wings and let the cat fly itself down. Or how about this - you create a jet plane and you hover over and grab the feline like a 2D Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s the joy of quests are presented in Scribblenauts Unlimited; there’s just so much scope to how you can solve a problem. Sure, you can’t use brand names or anything adult (obviously), but any game that gives you near-endless imaginative room for creativity is an ideal fit for Switch and its family-friendly ethos.
You can use Lily’s globe to visit multiple locations in your search for Starites and Starite Shards and there’s plenty of different tasks to keep you invested. You can make guns and swords to fight time-travelling monsters, or build helicopters to chase flying sky pirates. Even the most mundane of tasks - such as helping an art curator enhance the paintings in his gallery - is no less engaging because you’re always tapping into your own ideas. There are also plenty of hints in place, so younger players won’t struggle for long if they go blank mid-game.
And you can pretty much visit its many locations in any order you like, thanks to the map that pops up every time you select the globe from the overlay menu you access by pressing ‘+’/'-'. That ease of navigation makes Showdown incredibly easy to get lost in without ever feeling tied to a linear path. You can even visit the Punctuation Plaza where you can set up a shop and share some of your more unusual creations with other users, or visit their customisable premises are browse and rate their wordplay offerings.
The Mega Pack also comes with Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure, a sequel that builds on the approach to creativity perfected in Unlimited and throws in 2,000 DC characters for good measure. Much like LEGO DC/Marvel games, developer 5th Cell really ‘got’ what makes these heroes and villains so timeless and weaved it seamlessly into the Scribblenauts formula. Now you can visit Gotham City, Metropolis and more as you utilise everything from Batman’s batarangs to Doctor Fate’s helmet to solve all manner of comic capers. It’s brilliant, and much more than a simple use of a recognisable licence.
The same power to add adjectives to characters and objects returns, so an extra layer of fun comes in as you turn Green Lantern into a zombie or make Wonder Woman a giant version of her normal, lasso-wielding self. This licensed sequel also features a system that penalises you for using the same nouns and adjectives over and over again; if you want better rewards, you’ll need to use that imagination of yours. It’s a welcome twist, and one that suits the higher stakes Unmasked offers. And that’s not to mention the most obscure characters from DC canon that the developer took the time to include just in case some comics aficionado wants to show off their lore knowledge. This new double-pack even includes two brand new locations - Titan Towers and Belle Reve - so those looking to double dip have extra content to chew on.
Scribblenauts Mega Pack brings two of the most empowering games of the past decade to Switch. Both have been optimised for Switch - including touchscreen support, although you'll have to dig in the menus to find it - so you can be sure you’re getting a family-friendly experience that’ll have you plumbing the depths of your imagination for the most creative and out-of-the-box solutions.