hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Scribblenauts Unlimited
 BLOG ABOUT THIS

Review: Scribblenauts Unlimited

10:00 AM on 11.18.2012 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

Fun limited

The problem with a game like Scribblenauts is that the promise of boundless freedom comes with strict boundaries. A game that promises you can conjure any item in existence to solve puzzles can be broken pretty simply in a world without rules, since electronic ninjas could theoretically solve any and all problems. Thus, rules are contrived, fences erected, and you find yourself not quite free as the bird you just created out of thin air. 

Not to mention, a game that tries to do so much has to cut corners somewhere to fit it all in. So it is that you end up with no distinction between a dragon and a wyvern, as items share models and traits, and ultimately you find that the limitless potential just got a hell of lot more limited in the journey from premise to practice. 

Scribblenauts Unlimited even promises infinite freedom in its name. As you might have already guessed, that promise is not fulfilled ... and perhaps even falls shorter than previous games in the series.

Scribblenauts Unlimited (3DS, PC, Wii U [reviewed])
Developer: 5th Cell
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release: November 13, 2012 (3DS) / November 18, 2012 (Wii U) / November 20, 2012 (PC)
MSRP: $39.99 (3DS) / $29.99 (PC) / $59.99 (Wii U)

For Scribblenauts' big Wii U debut, Maxwell finds himself attempting to free his sister from a petrifying curse. The spell can only be broken by collecting Starites -- magical objects that are dropped in fragments by people whenever they're happy. Maxwell, atoning for an indolent life brought about by his magical summoning notepad, must use his scribbling powers for good and collect the Starites that appear as a result. 

It's a simple excuse to toss Maxwell into an "open world" of sorts -- and by that I mean a series of sidescrolling environments that are gradually unlocked and freely traveled to. Each environment is littered with people who have problems, which the player solves by conjuring objects based on the predicament at hand. For instance, if there's a cyborg who says he wants to look human, you simply write "wig," give it to him, and he drops a shard of Starite. Shark with toothache? Give him a dentist. There's not much more to it than that. 

Unlike before, where specific puzzles were solved to get Maxwell to a Starite, the bulk of Unlimited is spent in this fairly simplistic fashion -- highlighting NPCs, working out what they need, and giving it to them. There are slightly more complex challenges, where Maxwell performs a series of tasks that tell a little self-contained narrative -- but they more or less follow the same pattern, and often basically just tell you what to write down before you do it. You may get a tiny bit of creative freedom in the type of object you draw, but the basic requirement is linear, explicitly suggested, and leaves no room to challenge the player's mind. 

Only once or twice did I ever get moderately stumped by vague clues or puzzles that required any form of thought. For most of the campaign -- which can be cleared in a handful of hours -- I was simply going through the motions, inputting words without having to think about them and watching the cute animations unfold as a result. For many of the larger challenges, your choices don't even influence the results -- for instance, if you're told to give an injured dinosaur a new tail, your decision to write, "Pink Fluffy Tail" won't be shown on the dinosaur afterwards. Attempts at creatively solving the challenges are an active waste of time. 

This problem lies at the bulk of Scribblenauts Unlimited. It's not actually worth it to be inventive. You have the option to do so much with Maxwell's notepad -- changing the size, temperament, and color of anything you desire -- yet doing so doesn't really matter. Applying adjectives to objects only really matters when the game outright tells you to apply adjectives to things, otherwise you're doing it for personal amusement -- amusement that doesn't arrive since, as stated, nothing matters. Even worse, it's entirely possible to overthink puzzles -- being too creative can render the object unrecognizable to the game. It's always best to keep it simple, dreary, and unambitious. Scribblenauts really wants to drag you down to its level. 

Unlimited takes advantage of the Wii U's online function to allow users to create and share their own creations. You can make a Smelly Wheeled Neon Dog or a Giant Supersonic Demonic Fly, and most of the time, you'll get a fun result. The depth of creation is greater than ever before, and includes some characters from the Zelda and Mario series for added amusement, but it all feels for naught in a game where these inventions are more pointless than ever before. Not to mention, it's all just a slight expansion on ideas that have already been in two games, so there's not exactly anything fresh to make up for a new and mundane campaign structure. 

One thing I do like is the cute character editor. As well as Maxwell, players can choose any one of his many, many siblings, and each sibling may serve as a base for personalized character avatars. Their clothing colors can be changed, limbs grown or shrunk to disproportionate sizes, and they can be named. This has no bearing on gameplay, but is nonetheless a cool little addition to the series and does go some way to providing a bit of added interest. 

Another waste of time is playing the game with the television switched on. You'll be using the stylus on the GamePad's touchscreen to do practically everything, from interacting with objects to writing down words. The vibrant, colorful game looks utterly gorgeous on a television, but you can only really play if you're looking at the Pad, so it's not worth looking at. 

Scribblenauts Unlimited still serves some purpose as a playground of silly ideas, and it still has a measure of charm left over from its original incarnation, but when it comes time to actually play it, this is the most boring and monotonous game in the series. Anything it does well was already done in the portable installments, and the new structure is utterly tedious. With Unlimited, 5th Cell had an opportunity to greatly expand on a brilliant idea and bring us something truly groundbreaking. This opportunity was squandered, and the result is a game that can't hope to live up to the lofty promise of its own name. 

Boundless freedom? Scribblenauts Unlimited doesn't even try to drag itself out of the holding pen.



THE VERDICT

5

Scribblenauts Unlimited - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Average - Like a meal of lukewarm water with white bread. It filled my time and my belly, but lacks any discernible flavor or nutritional value. A game that left me no different than it found me. Just passing through.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
If someone used the blog reply feature to just divide a somewhat long blog into easier-to-digest chapters that could be consumed at the leisure of readers, would that be kosher?
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
[youtube]https://youtu.be/7bzKWOeSVn4[/youtube]
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
@Barry Kelly It looks like it will get pretty difficult later on. It even has instafail stealth sections according to @Chris Carter #neededanexcuse to #tryouttheatfeature
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
I hope MGS V manages to have some sort of challenge to it. I just replayed MGS 4 for the first time since release and wow that game just practically plays itself. And that's outside of the long sections it is playing itself!
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Splatfest Decipticons, Let us crush the Autobot menace [img]http://www.tfw2005.com/boards/attachments/transformers-fan-art/27462687d1408744118-3d-tarn-model-tarn-propaganda-copy-01.jpg[/img]
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Hey, all you Australian/UK/German Pokemon trainers out there! The Shiny Rayquaza event is ending, has just started, or will be starting in a few days (respectively), so be sure to get in on it while the getting is good!
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
4 days unt... no, wait... 3 days until Sahelanthropus.
Jish K avatarJish K
Greetings. For I am new. And still struggling to get that dang blog header to change.
From Must Git Gud avatarFrom Must Git Gud
MGSV is looking very good so far! Played to 2% completion last night. Pure stealth seems REALLY hard so far. PS3 version runs fine, loading times are OK, no slow downs, draw distance and pop-in are a bit rough. No glitches. Be prepared! Get it on PS4.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Jealous of all my brethren at PAX Prime. Sad I will miss out on the drinking, orgies and catching the PAX flew. This time next year though, I'll be there! I promise!
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Forgot to mention that I celebrated completing Persona 4: Golden by binging on a bunch of totally in-canon doujins. Including, but not limited to, Yu on genderswap't Yosuke. [img]http://i.imgur.com/Ex0MgjW.jpg[/img]
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
If you love Splatoon and Transformers you may want to check theyetee.com today. http://theyetee.com/ Let's just say the shirts are... Splatfest themed. [img]https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/j2AnOnQvRZqustSU45JP[/img]
Zack Furniss avatarZack Furniss
BREAKING: Dtoid is at the IGN Lara Croft Go party. You can hold live snakes because why the fuck not, but one snake is missing...
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
someone help i think i'm writing what is going to be my longest blog yet
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[url="http://nintendoeverything.com/yacht-club-on-the-shovel-knight-amiibos-origins-nintendo-on-third-party-figures/#more-216265"]Interview with Yacht Club Games that miiiight basically confirm Shovel Knight isn't getting a Nintendo boss/level?[/url]
RexterNathan avatarRexterNathan
Spent most of my day going back and playing Assassin's Creed: Unity. I really quite enjoyed it. It's a good game.
Bardley avatarBardley
Reserved my copy of The Phantom Pain today and my car died on the way back home. Thanks Konami. On the plus side, I got to ride in a tow truck to the auto shop. Felt like an elementary school field trip or something for a few minutes.
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Humble Bundle End of Summer Sale! Get a free Stealth Inc. 2 maybe? I dunno. Just signal boosting for no particular reason. Maybe 'cause I got a free game? Least I could do. https://www.humblebundle.com/store
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I gotta to admit: it feels nice to be able to play a Pokemon game without thinking to myself "oh shit, I got to fill up my Pokedex". It's nice. Oh yeah, and for the record, I'm playing through Soul Silver.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
I enter the Gamestop. I set a Toad plushie atop a Yoshi plushie. I set Mario to go down on Kirby. I leave the Gamestop.
more quickposts


Contest!


destructoid's previous coverage:
Scribblenauts Unlimited


  Apr 26

Rumor: Scribblenauts Unmasked takes place in DC universe

PC, Wii U, and 3DS superhero title may make E3 appearance


  Nov 07

Mega64: Selling ONE PERSON on Scribblenauts Unlimited

Guest starring 5th Cell's Jeremiah Slaczka


  Oct 17

Scribblenauts Unlimited for Wii U has Nintendo characters

Mario and Zelda? That was one hell of a guess


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!



Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -