Scribblenauts Unlimited review: adjective objectives

By Andrew Yoon, Dec 03, 2012 1:20pm PST

Scribblenauts Unlimited is, simply put, more Scribblenauts. For newcomers, Unlimited provides yet another entry point to experience 5TH Cell's rather magical "write your own answer" gameplay. However, series vets will find that even the addition of adjectives can't inject much new life into a familiar experience.

As with previous entries in the series, Unlimited equips Maxwell with a magical notebook that makes almost anything he can imagine come to life, from ponies to apples to wizards to ice cream sandwiches. Unlimited gives you the ability to add adjectives as well, so if for some reason you want to conjure up a "hungry blue chihuahua," you can.

Part of what makes Scribblenauts so wonderful is the ability to goof around with the dictionary and see what happens. If you've ever wanted to see a battle between invisible jetpack-wearing pirates and rainbow-colored ninjas with rocket launchers, you can. Are you curious how an "irritated bear" reacts to a "delicious hippy"? You can find out as well.

Unfortunately, although the game provides a wonderful sandbox to play with, the puzzles do little to test your imaginative capabilities. Many of the game's puzzles are incredibly easy, and thinking outside of the box rarely leads to success. It often feels like the game is looking for a very specific answer to their riddles, which goes against what makes Scribblenauts so appealing in the first place. The inclusion of adjectives makes solutions to certain puzzles absurdly easy, usually by turning something "giant" or "invisible." Sometimes, the game will tell you exactly what to type, making the game's adventure mode less about discovery, and more about rote repetition.

There are flashes of brilliance, however. For example, in one level, Maxwell must break out of prison. There's no single word that will solve this puzzle. You can experiment with black holes, evil robots, and magic carpets; you just need to do whatever it takes to get past the prison's beefy security system.

Scribblenauts Unlimited is available on a number of platforms, but it's safe to say the PC version is the one to get. The 2D art looks absolutely stunning in HD, and it shouldn't be surprising that a keyboard proves to be the best input device for the game. The 3DS version is an acceptable port, but the zoomed-in view of the game makes it difficult to navigate the environment, and the sluggish framerate takes some getting used to. The top screen is largely useless in the handheld version of the game, and there's no 3D support to speak of whatsoever.

Nintendo characters are featured in Scribblenauts, but with huge restrictions

The Wii U version of the game includes Nintendo items and characters and are a blast to play with. While it's fun to summon Link and Epona, Mario and Yoshi, there's very little you can do with these iconic characters. Unfortunately, you cannot use them as solutions to any puzzle--even though there are many occasions where they would make sense. One puzzle has you coming up with someone "to go on an adventure with." Apparently Mario or Link are not acceptable; instead, the game accepted the answer "nerd."

You also can't modify the Nintendo characters, making their inclusion in the game entirely cosmetic. We understand why Nintendo would prohibit you from creating a "bi-curious dark Link," but it's disappointing nonetheless. Guess fanfic writers can keep their jobs.

Scribblenauts Unlimited's ability to render nearly anything you can imagine is still impressive, even if it does seem a little less magical now. The sandbox gameplay is further enhanced by the ability to add adjectives and edit objects. And while it's fun to simply goof around in this world, the game's puzzles do little to challenge players to explore their creativity. Coupled with lackluster Nintendo integration, this iteration of Scribblenauts provides yet another fun sandbox to play in, but doesn't feel quite "unlimited."


This review was based on retail Wii U and 3DS code provided by the publisher. Additional testing was conducted on a PC download version of the game. All three versions are identical, minus exclusive Nintendo content not available on PC.

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