REVIEW – Scribblenauts Unmasked (Wii U/3DS)

Game – Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

Versions – Wii U & 3DS

ESRB Rating – E 10+ – Everyone ages 10 and up

Price – $59.99 (Wii U), $39.99 (3DS)

Release Date - 24/9/2013

Publisher –Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Obtained – Review copies courtesy of 5th Cell and Forty Seven Communications

 

Scribblenauts Unmasked allows the player to solve puzzles and fight villains with the superpower that is their imagination. Is the game truly limited to what your mind can create, though?

Story/Plot

      Scribblenauts Unmasked puts players in control of Maxwell, a young boy with a magical notebook that allows him to create any object he can imagine. By combining his gift with his sister Lily’s globe that could transport her anywhere she wanted, they were able to travel to Gotham City, where they found that Maxwell’s arch-nemesis Doppelganger had teamed up with various villains in order to seek out the mystical Starites to use their powers for unknown evils.

Although this story never amounts to anything adult gamers would find particularly interesting, it does take Maxwell through areas inspired by some of DC’s key characters including Gotham City, Metropolis and Atlantis. In these areas, Maxwell can either help civilians with their problems, or progress the story by taking on missions. Typically these missions involve a superhero teaming up with Maxwell to fight one of their signature foes and Doppelganger. DC fans will probably be disappointed by the lackluster dialogue and array of featured foes, but the motion comic-styled cutscenes that open and close the game are admittedly quite beautiful, and it’s a shame there weren’t more throughout the game.

Gameplay & Controls

As with every Scribblenauts game, the player can create a vast variety of nouns, and couple them with adjectives that modify their behavior in order to solve various puzzles and complete tasks. For example, I needed to get up to a higher ledge so I created a “giant winged sonic beaver” and was able to fly there quickly. A woman was choking, so I made boxing gloves and repeatedly smacked her until the objects came flying out. I wanted to make my own super hero so I went into Hero Creator Mode, gave an octopus alligator heads on each of his tentacles and sent him out to fight crime under the alias “OctoCroc”. In some ways, the humorous puzzles and solutions compensate for the lack of an interesting story as incentive to progress through the game.

One issue with the series was always that the player might drift towards the same objects to complete their tasks, but in Unmasked repeating words will cut the amount of points you receive in a mission, and “Mr. MXYZPTLK” challenges double your points by changing way you approach puzzles. For example, he might change all the characters on the map into zombies that try to attack you, or he may restrict you to only creating animals and adjectives. These additions shake up the Scribblenauts formula and make it all the more entertaining and challenging.

The DC franchise adds even more depth to the gameplay. Most puzzles do not require any extensive knowledge of DC comics, but coming up with special solutions to puzzles (like knowing that Bizzarro characters are vulnerable to Blue Kryptonite) can certainly satisfy one’s inner comic book fan. For those who aren’t as familiar with the many faces of DC, the Batcomputer that can be accessed at any time and gives brief background information for each hero and object, in addition to allowing players to search for and discover new characters. Although Scribblenauts Unmasked might seem intimidating to those unfamiliar with the DC franchise, the game does an excellent job of accommodating those players as well as entertaining aficionados.

The main issue with Scribblenauts Unmasked’s gameplay arises during combat. Fighting one foe is manageable, but as soon as you get a group of enemies on screen it becomes a jumbled, confusing mess. If other heroes and villains are in the area, they will likely enter the fray, and if you accidentally hit one of the heroes you spawned he will turn on you and start to attack. In a game where you usually have so much control of what’s going on, these battles are an unwelcome, hectic mess.

“I… THINK I’m winning?”

Visuals & Sound

     Scribblenauts is known for its very cutesy, minimalist art style, and it looks even better in high definition on the Wii U. Everything is crisp and clear, and there are some lovely visual effects in the backgrounds of popular DC locations. As a result, browsing through the catalogue of DC heroes just to see what they look like is entertaining in and of itself. Of course, the 3DS version is inferior in terms of visuals, has slightly choppy motions and also does not allow for zooming in and out on the map, which can help the player to find objects and missions far faster. Some gamers may be disappointed to know that the 3DS version has no 3D effects apart from the title screen and two motion comic cutscenes. It’s a shame it wasn’t included beyond that, because it looks great for the total of four minutes that you’ll see it for.

Oa looks pretty gorgeous on the Wii U

The game features some good tracks that capture the feeling of being in a superhero-themed video game. Orchestral sounds that swell up and down are reminiscent of many superhero movies, and keeping the sound on definitely adds a lot to the game. The narrator of the introductory and concluding cutscenes also does an excellent job, and as with the motion comic cutscenes it’s a shame the player doesn’t get to hear more of him.

 

Final Score:  7.5 out of 10 (Wii U)

                         6.5 out of 10 (3DS)

 

As with most Scribblenauts games, the true appeal doesn’t lie in the story, but rather in coming up with crazy solutions to different puzzles, and simply messing around with the game’s incredibly vast library of objects, characters and adjectives. If you come in expecting an epic story that caters to DC fans and deep, engaging missions you’ll likely be disappointed, but if you see it as a means of testing the limits of the game’s engine, creating your own objects in the Hero Creator and harnessing imagination, you’ll have plenty of fun. The Wii U version is noticeably superior in terms of visuals, which bleeds over somewhat into gameplay, especially when being able to zoom out of the map can make navigating each level far easier.

 

+ Huge library of objects, adjectives and DC characters

+ New means of challenging the player to come up with unique solutions

+ Some humorous, silly missions

+ Big, cinematic soundtrack is reminiscent of comic book movies

+ Hero Creator mode makes for unlimited creativity (Wii U)

+ Looks nice in HD (Wii U)

- Fighting mechanics are messy

- Game’s logic can be confusing sometimes

- Simple story will likely disappoint DC Comics fans

______________________________________________________________________________

Alexandre Trottier had always wanted to fight crime as a gigantic, golden puffer fish and thanks to Scribblenauts Unmasked his dream can finally come true. He did an extensive amount of research into the DC Universe before playing the game, and ultimately decided that his favourite character is Topo, Aquaman’s pet octopus, because he can play 5 different instruments simultaneously and is a trapeze artist, among other neat things. You can follow him on Twitter @NF_Alexandre, check out the NintendoFuse forums, and tell us your favourite super hero/object to create in Scribblenauts Unmasked in the comments below! Don’t forget to like and share the article!

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About the author:

When Alex was young, he used to cry whenever his parents tried to hand him a game controller. Having complete control over the life of a red-clad Italian plumber was just too daunting to him. Nowadays, he only cries when the controller’s taken away.

Hailing from the frigid tundras of Canada, Alex plays video games not only to entertain himself, but also as a source of warmth to get him through the winter. He loves all genres of video games, the more difficult the better. Some of his current favourites include VVVVVV, Pikmin 3 and Rayman Legends.

Alex – who has written posts on NintendoFuse.


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