Review: Scribblenauts Unlimited (Wii U)

Scribble to your heart’s content

The Scribblenauts series has always been about pushing your imagination to its limits and solving puzzles in unique and often hilarious ways. With its various open worlds and the ability to seamlessly traverse between them, as well as the brand new object editor which lets you create almost anything and everything, Scribblenauts Unlimited feels like the first time that the dream of total control has been fully realized. Or, close to it, at least.

There is a plot behind the goings-on in Scribblenauts Unlimited that explains how Maxwell, the series’ protagonist, got his magic notebook, but it serves as nothing more than a thin device to set the action in motion. We quickly learn that Maxwell and his sister Lily have been harassing others with a new notebook that they received form their parents, and as punishment Lily is cursed to slowly turn to stone. Now it’s up to Maxwell to use his powers to create objects and help folks in need, all in order to restore Lily to her normal fleshy form.

As you progress and continue to help people with their mostly ridiculous requests, such as providing a meal for a cannibal or protecting a nerd from a rain of dodge balls, you will collect objects called starites. Gathering them is necessary for helping to heal Lily, but they also allow you to unlock new areas of the game; not only are starites necessary for completing the storyline, but they are also needed to completely expand the world and allow for full exploration. Though the main campaign can be completed in less than 10 hours, there are over 100 starites to be found, most of which are broken up into smaller shards, so avid collectors will definitely have their hands and schedules full.

Despite the relatively short campaign, there is still plenty to do to keep you busy. Beyond collecting every starite, there’s also the pure pleasure that comes from creating whatever you can imagine in the open world. Adding to the limitless creativity is the new object editor, which allows you to pretty much create whatever you want and use it in the game; it isn’t the most intuitively designed editing tool, but once you master it creating your own unique weapons, vehicles, and living creatures is an absolute blast. There’s also the option to share your original creations online between players, or you can be lazy and just harvest what others have already generated.

Utilizing a combination of the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen and physical control options, this game is a perfect fit for the home console. Having the GamePad in hand and using the touchscreen to summon objects makes the whole experience seem even more immersive, as though you actually have Maxwell’s magic notebook with you. Controlling Maxwell can be done using either the GamePad’s conventional controls or the touchscreen, and both options feel natural and accurate.

In an attempt to further extend the life of this title, there is the inclusion of multiplayer. Rather than allowing others to join in as characters with magic notebooks of their own, additional players instead use Wii Remotes to take control of objects that the first player has already created. It can be exciting to take control of a giant purple T-Rex who can fly through the sky, but there’s really only so much flying you can do before it gets stale. The multiplayer, while genius in idea, is dishearteningly limited and lacklustre in execution.

As with previous entries in the series, Scribblenauts Unlimited has a cartoony art style and a light-hearted, upbeat soundtrack to match it. While the characters and environments may not be the most detailed, the style perfectly fits the tone of the game; by using a simplistic style of art, it emits a youthful sense of fun and immediately lets you know that its tongue-in-cheek manner shouldn’t be taken too seriously. This experience truly produces a charm that is both endearing and rare to find in modern gaming.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of previous entries in the Scribblenauts series, then you’re going to love Scribblenauts Unlimited. If you’ve never played one before, then now is absolutely the time to start. The campaign could be considered to be on the short side, and the multiplayer gameplay leaves much to be desired, but, as always, Scribblenauts is about the pure joy of extending your imagination. This is the kind of game that looks great, controls well, and provides a whole heck of a lot of family-friendly fun.

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