Developer: 5th Cell
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Plot: Maxwell recreates Gotham and transports there with his sister, accidentally unleashing his evil twin brother upon the Justice League.
I am of two minds about Scribblenauts Unmasked. On the one hand, it is a fantastic idea, original in every sense of the word (ignoring the fact that it is the fifth in the series), but then almost everything else about the game falls flat. Therefore with this Nintendo game, I find myself appreciating the concept, but not particularly enjoying the experience.
Let’s start with the good. For those of you that don’t know, Scribblenauts is based around Maxwell, who has the power to draw anything into existence. The gameplay totally works with this, throwing several challenges at the player and you have to come up with the solution yourself. And it can be anything. For example, the first mission sees you take on the Joker in Gotham city. You can write anything into existence to fight him, like a Purple, Rubber, Cautious Minotaur. Or maybe you would rather add an adjective to the Joker, like ‘Shrinking’, so he fades away into nothing. This is a totally awesome feature, especially aimed at kids, because imagination really is the limit of this game. More points are earned if you use new words each time, so you are constantly trying to think of different ways to approach fights and rescue missions. Usually educational games come across as gaming hell, but I really respect what this game is trying to do. Sadly, adults might get frustrated, when the game gets a little moody about you trying to equip Harley Quinn with a Vibrating Dildo.
How can you make this idea even better? Add DC heroes of course. This game takes place, because the two protagonists decide to draw up Gotham City for the hell of it and accidentally drag their scheming nemesis, Doppelganger, in with them. Before long, you team up with Batman and end up coming face to face with all of your favourite DC heroes. I am not going to lie: I only tried out this game, as I wanted a dose of the Caped Crusader, before Arkham Origins comes out later this month. This game has all of the rare heroes, only hardcore fans will know, although most of them only get a cameo. It is a little hard to not notice the fact that Batman’s universe is explored extensively, while The Flash gets a token ten minutes spent in his city. However, for the most part, Scribblenauts Unmasked incorporates the DC Universe well and there is always a fresh breath of life injected into the levels, when a new superhero villain comes onto the scene.
So far, it sounds like I am loving this game. An original premise intertwined with superheroes. However, the rest of the game just crumbles away. For one, it is incredibly short. The first two levels (Batman and Superman) last a fair amount of time, showcasing interesting scenarios. Then repetition kicks in (new faces, same situation) and the game starts cutting levels. You will rush through Wonder Woman’s scene before you even realise you’ve started it and the entire game could easily be completed in a day. It hardly seems worth the money. I have a theory that so much memory and time went into making literally any solution possible (see Purple, Rubber, Cautious Minotaur), that there wasn’t really any space on the game’s memory by the time it was done (I have little idea how creating games actually works, but seeing as LA Noire came to me with three discs, I think I am not far off the truth – comments to clarify would be appreciated). Some people might forgive the game for this and a part of me wants to, as well, but it still begs the question that this game might not be worth the money it charges.
It tries to make up for it with bonus missions. Every level is a small map with an icon that takes you to the main mission. Around the map, random quests are spawned that change every time you clock into the game. For example, you could jump back a checkpoint and the map would essentially feel like a different level. However, these quests are essentially ‘This person wants to start a band – spawn him a guitar’. Boom – complete. Also, the game has little control over the random spawning. If a quest involves stopping a fight between two characters, there’s nothing from stopping one of those characters to turn on the other quest-givers that have spawned nearby. Zombie enemies are the worst, because if they accidentally escape you, in moments the entire map has been infected, ending any potential bonus missions. Or maybe you cause the carnage with one of your rogue creations. A few times, my Purple, Rubber, Cautious Minotaur got bored of helping me and turned on the likes of Commissioner Gordon. Completing a map sometimes relies on luck of the draw.
Then again, these bonus quests are utterly pointless. In order to unlock the next level, you need a certain amount of reputation points earned by completing these random tasks. However, you also get points simply by spawning something, encouraging the power of imagination to flow. Sadly, this means that if you end up getting stuck, you can cheat your way to the next stage by simply creating endless drawings. Sometimes, it is far more fun to simply spawn endless dinosaurs and watch them rip the map to shreds. Yes, I had fun, but it’s the kind of fun you have for a day and then move onto a much better game. Basically, I am glad I borrowed this and experience the imaginative world of Scribblenauts, but I definitely would not recommend buying it. It amazes me that every other review claims that this is a five star game.
Final Verdict: A great, original premise ruined on lazy levels and a messy map. This is half a good idea, but not a finished product.