The best puzzle-word-action-adventure-hotdog-radioactive-penguin-shark game ever made.
I’ve spent the past few days trying to define Scribblenauts. I can’t. How do you explain a game in which the main character can be dressed like a hotdog while using an EMP to disable a security camera so a thieving penguin can steal a giant diamond? It’s impossible. Actually...wait...maybe I did just define it. Did I? I don’t know. I could call it a puzzle game, a word game, a word puzzle game, an action game, an adventure game, but I don’t think any one term that best describes the series. So when it comes to Scribblenauts Unlimited, I’m going to call it the best puzzle-word-action-adventure-hotdog-radioactive-penguin-shark game ever made. That’s all you need to know: whatever this game is, it’s really good at doing it.
That’s been a common trend with all Scribblenauts games. They’re charming toy boxes of randomness and creativity that tease you with difficulty but are in actual fact a lot simpler than they seem: they just want you break away from the simplest of answers. Scribblenauts Unlimited has all of the best attributes of past Scribblenauts games. It’s not perfect, none of the series’ games have been, but it does enough to keep you playing.
The pulling power of Scribblenauts Unlimited is its functionality with the GamePad. Writing words and creating objects to help solve a puzzle are tasks that work well on the controller’s touch-screen, and I found myself interacting and watching the GamePad more than I did the television. That level of functionality is important in maintaining the series’ portable feel, which has helped define it since the first game’s release. Being able to walk away from my television and play a console version of Scribblenauts on the large GamePad screen is fantastic.
The game uses subtle explanations and guidance to help solve puzzles. How will I get the crash dummy’s heart going again? Electricity? Cold water? How about a doctor? And what about the arsonist that feels like everyone hates him? Do I call the police? Or do I hook him up with a psychiatrist? Each puzzle has a variety of different ways to be solved, and the simplest answer isn’t always the best one. The idea of Scribblenauts Unlimited is to let your imagination run wild and try any number of different ways to help people in the game.
Add in a seemingly infinite number of acceptable nouns and you can basically turn any object into the most outrageous item or living thing you can imagine. Is that elephant you just spawned too nice? Make him angry. Throw in some radioactiveness, too, just for good measure. There really is no limit to what you create, as long as you’re not intent on using curse words or licensed products.
It’s a fun, random experience that is essentially defined by its outrageousness, which thankfully never goes too far. It makes me chuckle to see a winged tiger causing havoc on a stage, just because I felt like creating one. That’s the whole point, really, not really caring about what the item does, as long as you can make it living. Scribblenauts Unlimited gets the whole God thing down pretty well.
The puzzles I felt were the easiest in the Scribblenauts series. I found myself blasting through stages in far less time than I did in any of the handheld iterations, although it definitely felt like the experience overall was longer and there’s definitely more content here to play with, so I guess it balances out in that regard. But I remember even early puzzles in the initial DS game being quite the challenge, whereas in Unlimited I found myself constantly falling for the trap of using the easy option because the puzzle was too easy to solve. I definitely feel that with Scribblenauts games, the harder the puzzle you’re trying to solve, the more likely you are to let your imagination run wild.
The Final Verdict
Scribblenauts Unlimited is a fantastic launch title that uses the GamePad functionality quite well. While I feel most gamers will play the game on the controller more than watch it unfold in glorious high definition on their big screen televisions, that doesn’t really take away from the experience all that much. It just means that the series has maintained its iconic portable on-the-go gaming feel that thankfully feels just at home while playing in my living room than it does playing on the train. It’s definitely the easiest Scribblenauts game I’ve played, which is mildly disappointing, but it’s still fun to play and create.