Following the launch of any new console, we are inevitably swamped with games claiming to be the “perfect” use of the new technology. Today’s contender: Scribblenauts Unlimited, which brings the beloved 5th Cell franchise to the Wii U.
Maxwell’s younger sister Lily has been turned to stone, as an old man takes revenge on a nasty practical joke the kids played on him. It’s up to our rooster-hatted hero to clutch his magical notebook and save her – and the only way to reverse the curse? Do nice things for other people!
This gives Scribblenauts more of a story mode than we’ve ever seen from the franchise, and it’s a very welcome addition. Earlier versions of the game sit languishing on my iDevices, waiting for me to have the free time to play another level or two, while the Wii U demanded all of my time until I’d collected all the Starites and freed Lily.
It also created a unique sort of frustration. I had been completing each level obsessively, collecting every fragment and gaining every Starite, with the intention of continuing that way throughout the entire game. Then Lily was freed well before the end of the available levels, and now I’m not sure – other than completism – what incentive I have to keep going. At least there are more brothers to unlock…
…oh, didn’t I mention the brothers? There are forty of them (Maxwell’s parents, Julie and Edgar, must have been busy. And tired). The brothers – in various costumes – hang out in a number of levels, and if you do something nice for them, you’ll be able to play in their clothes. Larp dresses like an elf, Tanc wears a pilot’s uniform, Tiberius is a gladiator, Buzz is an astronaut and Flux has apparently come back from the future (complete with 3D classes). Pop culture references abound throughout Scribblenauts Unlimited, with a number of memes popping up within the game. In my travels I found a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, while Nyan Cat and a Blue Screen of Death are just a few taps away.
Words are, of course, entered via the new GamePad. In fact, Scribblenauts Unlimited virtually ignores that big-screen tv you bought for all your HD games. The new controller handles the on-screen display, text input areas and in-game menus, taking “off screen” to new levels. It’s a decision that has divided the community: Gamesblip isn’t fond of the television ignorance, and votes for an alternative, big screen control option. Personally, I think it’s nifty.
(To be completely honest, I didn’t bother turning the tv on for most of the time I spent on the game, preferring instead to curl up on the couch, stylus in hand, tapping away and creating fantastical solutions to remarkably simple problems. It meant the tv could be saved for More Important things, like the nightly news or perhaps yet another episode of Storage Wars.)
While at E3 2012, we had a chance to catch up with Brittany Aubert from 5th Cell, where we both squealed and giggled over the possibilities of the new game. Just on six months later, with a copy in my (increasingly) sweaty hand, it’s fair to say that Scribblenauts Unlimited has definitely lived up to the hype.