Scribblenauts Unmasked Review

Scribblenauts Unmasked brings the series' star character Maxwell into the DC Comics universe. If you've played any of the prior Scribblenauts games, then you can probably see the synergy they were going for here. After all, Maxwell's ability to create things out of thin air by scribbling words in his notebook is basically a superpower, right? However, they didn't stop there, and in an effort to make Scribblenauts Unmasked more of a superhero game it is far more action-oriented then previous Scribblenauts games. And, unfortunately for Unmasked, Scribblenauts works far better as a puzzle game than an action game.

First, let's cover the Scribblenauts basics for those of you new to the series. Scribblenauts lets you bring just about anything that you can think of into the game just by writing its name into your notebook. Need an axe to get rid of a tree? Just write "axe", pick it up, and go to work. Someone bothering you? Just write "dinosaur" and that pesky person won't be bothering you for much longer. Items can be combined as well, so you can try to reach something high up by putting a ladder on the back of an elephant. A big part of the fun is in experimenting, because there are any number of ways to solve a puzzle and because sometimes the objects that you summon interact with each other and the environment in completely unexpected ways. And in addition to summoning objects, you can also use the notebook to add adjectives to items, animals, and people. Use "frozen" to freeze someone in their tracks or "undead" to turn them into a zombie. Or improve Maxwell by making him "strong" or "giant".

The game's levels each feature a primary story mission as well as a number of people in need of help. These people's predicaments form the puzzle part of the game, but unfortunately they're all so simple and straightforward that they're usually solved by summoning a single object. This is rather disappointing because it completely neuters the aspect of the game that made prior iterations in the series so enjoyable. There's not much need to think or experiment with combining things in different ways in Scribblenauts Unmasked. The game tries to add to the challenge by penalizing your score for summoning the same object more than once on a level, but there are so many ways to solve each puzzle that this restriction doesn't really have any effect on things.

The story missions fare a little worse, because there's inevitably a battle with a villain and/or henchmen and the game does not do action sequences very well. It's awkward to try and keep Maxwell out of harm's way long enough to tap something with the stylus or jump to the notebook to summon a weapon. Even after you're armed, the controls for attacking an opponent are somewhat clumsy and the screen can become crowded quickly making it difficult to discern between characters when they're all on top of one another. Worst of all, though, is the fact that it doesn't really matter who you're facing because you can attack any villain in the same ways. There are no strengths and weaknesses that are particular to each villain - you can pretty much take care of anybody by adding a "frozen" adjective to them and bringing in a "ray gun".

On a positive note, the game is a real treat for fans of the DC universe. The game goes well beyond providing you with the big name heroes and villains, as well as number of alternate versions of each. There are plenty of obscure characters that only the most ardent of DC fans or the company archivist will recognize. The Batcomputer has information on all of them, so you can easily spend hours browsing DC lore.

I hope that we see a Scribblenauts Unmasked 2, because the potential is there for a great game. Make the game's puzzles a little more challenging and more comics-focused, differentiate the game's villains and make the battles with each feel unique, and either fix the game's action elements or eliminate them entirely and then you'll have the makings of a great Scribblenauts superhero game. As it stands now, though, you've got something best left to DC comics fans.

Final Rating: 65%. Awesome use of DC license, poor use of Scribblenauts gameplay.


Also reviewed on:
  •  · Wii U