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Scribblenauts Unlimited Review

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Adam Barnes

Is this 5th Cell’s finest hour, or does the Wii U need to hold out for something new. Find out in our review.

scribblenautsunlimited-01.jpg

Published on Feb 1, 2013

For a game supposedly unlimited, it seems strange that Scribblenauts Unlimited won’t let us summon phallic objects with our words. Of course this criticism is a little droll, but there's a pertinent point here for our Scribblenauts Unlimited Wii U review.

We’re not upset we can’t have Maxwell handle severed penises because – obviously – that wouldn’t be right for what, technically, is a kids game.

But there are a number of limitations imposed in Scribblenauts Unlimited beyond unnecessary vulgarity, primary among them being the frustrating lack of freedom when it comes to solving puzzles.

Scribblenauts Unlimited is built in a pseudo open world, enabling you to pick from a selection of locations from an overworld map and complete the challenges within.

That, in itself, is a great idea and though a more traditional open world approach would have been nice, the choice of where you go and what you do does feel genuinely more compelling than simply ticking off puzzles in a linear order.

Each themed area comes with a number of Starite pieces – the game’s reward for solving puzzles – though many of these are, instead, in fragments. Collect enough of these smaller sections and you’ll form ‘complete’ Starite pieces.

Each area is themed in some way, which does tailor some of the words you decide to use.

The tasks for the fragments are part of these open worlds, and are unlocked after resolving any of the NPCs’ problems. There’s between 6-12 per level, but aren’t particularly difficult.

Whereas previous Scribblenauts games were about solving particular puzzles, however, Scribblenauts Unlimited is more akin to word association.

A huge crux of the gameplay revolves around typing individual words to solve a problem. Hungry animal? “Apple”. Poor man? “Money”. Dirty mirror? “Cloth”.

The largest portion of Scribblenauts Unlimited follows this pattern of wading through different areas, ticking off each of the objectives as you face them. None are particularly challenging – as we say, it’s more word association than lateral thinking – and none are that interesting.

Even the missions of the game follow the same pattern, but rather than individual objects you’ll have specific steps to complete instead. 

One example required us to change a car into a fire truck, but rather than having the freedom to decide how we do this ourselves we had to follow a string of commands: first make it red (“red paint”), then have it make noise (“speaker”) and finally give the fireman the ability to spray water (“hose”).

Individual NPCs provide Starite fragments, the missions provide full pieces.

The missions, therefore, become extended variants of the NPC quests, and only a couple of them provide anything beyond the norm. It’s like a perpetual game of Family Fortunes, except without ‘Our survey says…’

And worst of all is the unoriginality of the majority of puzzles. Throughout the game you’ll encounter very similar problems – or, at the very least, utilise very similar solutions.

Want to wake a snoring fireperson? “Speaker”. Need a music system for a rock band? “Speaker”. How about unearthing a giant Sand Worm? “Speaker”.

You’ll encounter so many solutions you use time and time again, and not because it’s your go-to problem-solving mechanic either. Scribblenauts Unlimited is uninspired and – quite frankly – dull.

Not to mention the complete disregard for the hardware itself. If you were hoping Scribblenauts Unlimited would be the game to sell the Wii U, then you’ll be gravely disappointed.

At no point is the dual-screen mechanic of the Wii U ever utilised, and because you need the GamePad to input text, chances are you’ll never even look up from the controller.

Which is a shame because Scribblenauts Unlimited’s lovely art style looks gorgeous in HD.

There's a certain cutesy appeal to the visuals, and it's certainly one of the better aspects of Scribblenauts Unlmited.

The only benefit to Scribblenauts Unlimited being on the Wii U is the local multiplayer, which sees gamers connecting Wii Remotes to take control of any item Maxwell creates.

Then there’s the object customisation, which enables users to tweak existing items and turn them into their own creations.

It sounds vaguely interesting, but it’s not nearly the feature it’s made out to be. Sure you can add wings to cars or spots to dogs – whichever adjectives or nouns used alone can be added to a single object – but there’s no real reason to do so.

You can share them over the internet and view other players creations, but there’s no real benefit or reward for doing so. Kids might appreciate the ability to express their creativity, but it’s far too unimportant a system to really work that well.

Both the local multiplayer and online sharing features are peripheral additions and little else. At best they're mild distractions, at worst a nuisance and not nearly the same level of innovation we’ve come to expect from 5th Cell.

And really this is what it comes down to. This is the third Scribblenauts game 5th Cell has created, and the initial innovation has since waned. All that remains is a limited husk of a once-great idea.

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
8.0 / 10
Sound
7.0 / 10
Gameplay
5.0 / 10
Longevity
5.0 / 10
Multiplayer
TBA / 10
Overall
5.0 / 10
Final Verdict
Scribblenauts Unlimited could probably keep kids entertained quite happily for a couple of hours, but don't expect to get much enjoyment out of this one yourself.
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Game Details
Format:
Wii U
Release Date:
TBA
Price:
£44.99
Publisher:
Nintendo
Developer:
5th Cell
Genre:
Puzzle
No. of players:
1-3
Verdict
5.0 /10
There's no more innovation for Scribblenauts, which has resulted in a fairly basic puzzle game.
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