Scribblenauts Unlimited PC Review
After playing the first Scribblenauts way back in ’09, I could tell instantly how far the franchise has come when starting Scribblenauts Unlimited. The first thing I noticed was just how great the game looked. It’s sharp, colourful and has a wonderful personality that defines the franchise’s goofy style. It also has a charming story that is, although fairly senseless, beautifully told through some nice animation and a great voiceover. The story introduces you to your character, Maxwell, and his sister Lily. Children to two of the greatest adventures who ever lived, they were each bestowed a gift by their parents. Lily received a globe with the power to transport the user anywhere in the world, whilst Maxwell was given a magic notebook that could bring anything written in it into existence. These gifts turned the two children into spoiled brats and so they are sent off to face the challenges of the world. Thinking it would be funny to play a cruel trick on a hungry old man begging for food, they get into real trouble when he curses Lily, slowly turning her to stone.
Maxwell learns about the mystical properties of Starites, objects that are created when a creature is content and full of happiness. Armed with both the globe and his notebook, he sets out to collect as many as he can, in hopes of being able to use the power of the Starites to save his sister. Aiming to please every creature you meet, the player is tasked with helping fix, find or simply create a huge variety of different objects. There are two main ways to obtain Starites: finding them as a whole, or in pieces as shards. Whole Starites are found, at most, twice in a level and are unlocked by completing a number of similar sub-tasks in a mission with a short story, such as escaping a prison. Starite pieces are found everywhere and usually only require a quick, single use of the notebook, but there are several that will infuriate you after 50+ incorrect guesses.
Besides the few-and-far-between difficult challenges, the game is incredibly easy and can on occasion be quite-mind numbing, requiring little attention. Of course, a task is only as difficult as you want to make it. After all, your imagination is the limit. In theory this works nicely, but realistically a puzzle usually only requires a simple answer and trying to think of the funniest or most random one has no benefit. Instead, you simply end up staring at the game, deep in thought, when you could just as easily use a different object and move on. For example, at one point you are asked to create something to lure a carnivorous dinosaur. This can make for some fun, but there’s an obvious limit – it must be meat. Sitting and thinking of the greatest possible meat is just a waste of time when the outcome is exactly the same. I went with a small kid (going for that Jurassic Park theme), but nothing changed – the story played out identically and the dino still acted as if I’d chosen to use a burger instead.
Still, it can be fun to play around and summon a cyborg ninja and a zombie pirate, then have them battle it out for supremacy – which, by the way, ended with the ninja being triumphant but getting zombified in the process. Although, creating fantasy battles and opening black holes with large hadron colliders only lasts so long before becoming incredibly dull. I love how much you can create and all the clever interactions the world has, but standing in place and creating things gets boring fast, and there’s very little replay value if you play the game like I did and complete each level fully as you go along.
As mentioned, I took it one level at a time, collecting every Starite piece before moving on. This means that after finishing the story there was nothing really left for me to do, but I did notice I still didn’t have all 106 Starites, even with 100% on every level. That’s when I found out about the final way to get Starites – object shards. By going into the Pause Menu and selecting ‘Shards,’ you’ll notice another tab labelled ‘Object Shards’. Clicking this tab will show you 8 different subsections, and inside each is around 28 mini-challenges.
Each challenge is a simple task requiring you to use a certain object or have a number of objects interact in a particular manner. For example, one of them is to reunite the headless horseman with his head, a pretty comical, self-explanatory puzzle idea. That’s what each of these mini-challenges are really – ideas, ideas of what you can create and what fun you can have. In one part, you have to return the Ark to Indy – who is obviously Indiana Jones – and creating a geek brings to life a character that I’m fairly sure is Napoleon Dynamite. The problem is that, once again, standing there and just creating objects for no reason isn’t fun for long. Also, finding this after I’d already completed the game was a shame. I would have liked to have taken on these smaller challenges bit by bit as I made my way through the story levels, but it was never pointed out.
It can get pretty boring after more than an hour or so, but it’s enjoyable to play Scribblenauts Unlimited stage-by-stage, savouring your creations and making each level unique. There’s a bunch of hilarious characters and missions hidden in the game that had me laughing out loud more than a couple of times. Little gems like this are spread throughout the whole game, and every character interaction looks brilliant and always comes with a nice dose of humour. Overall, the game is fun but I’d definitely recommend playing in small chunks.