Since the first Scribblenauts was released in 2009 the game’s star, Maxwell, and his magic notebook have become a cornerstone of creative gaming. Whereas games like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft let you create levels, or customize your characters, or build to your heart’s content, Scribblenauts lets you create objects out of thin air to solve puzzles and help people out. The series has become developer 5th Cell’s flagship title, and the create-an-object gameplay has now carried the series through three portable titles. The arrival of the Wii U has finally brought the franchise’s graduation to console gaming with the release of Scribblenauts Unlimited, the next step in Scribblenauts’ evolution.
Scribblenauts Unlimited serves to fill in some of the gaps of the earlier releases by giving Maxwell a background story, and a sister, Lily, to care for. It seems that one day, while Maxell and Lily were out, they played a mean trick on a stranger, who cursed Lily to slowly turn to stone. In Unlimited, it’s Maxwell’s job to explore every corner of the world, and solve people’s problem to collect as many Starites as possible, which will help keep Lily from ending up as a statue.
This time around, the gameplay appears to be a bit more complex, pushing the series forward, while at the same time, keeping it true to its roots. The Scribbnauts formula is a simple one: find out what someone’s (or something’s) problem is, and figure out how to solve it. The catalyst in this scenario is Maxwell’s magic notebook that can conjure up just about anything the player’s mind can dream up. For example, if a dinosaur wants to “shoot hoops” you can create a basketball to help him achieve his baller dreams. However, in Unlimited there are vastly more options for what you can create and how you create it.
Unlimited is more than a name, it’s a way of life in this Scribblenauts. Maxwell’s vocabulary expanded in Super Scribblenauts to include adjectives, but now you can combine and create objects. These two additions crack the game wide open and allow Maxwell to be able to creatively solve just about any problem that the game can throw at him. Combining is a straightforward mechanic, and allows for items to be attached to other ones by dragging and dropping them. Creating objects is a whole other can of worms.
Unlimited includes an item editor that allows players to modify and craft anything they want, and then save it for later use. If you think that cat needs wings, then you can make it so, then save it in your backpack for a puzzle where someone needs to move, and then whip out the winged kitty. In addition to saving, you can also share your creations with your friends, courtesy of the Nintendo Network, so you don’t just keep your twisted creations to yourself, you can share them with the world.
Traditionally, the Scribbnauts games have been a single-player affair, with one player controlling Maxwell and all of his creations. Unlimited takes the usually solo gameplay, and mixes things up by adding an option in for up to three additional people to play “co-op” style. Maxwell is still in control of his notebook, but additional players can join in using a Wii remote and take control of various items on the screen. While it isn’t as wacky as it could be, it’s a nice way to share the Scribblenauts experience, and have it be more than just a fancy Mad Libs game.
However, if you would like to keep your game all to yourself, you can play using just the GamePad, and switch off your TV. Oddly, you seem to lose the background music when you choose this method of play, but it’s a small sacrifice to play the full console version of Scribblenauts in your hands. Otherwise, the game looks and plays just as well on the GamePad’s mini screen as it does on your big screen.
Scribblenauts Unlimited is a great game. It takes an already solid i.p. and, updates it, and brings it to a new platform. Maxwell and his friends (including some of Nintendo’s biggest characters) make for a great place for anyone to start on with the Wii U; the gameplay is simple to understand, and has limitless possibilities, even for the conservatively creative gamers. While Unlimited might not be the game to showcase all of the Wii U GamePad’s extensive capabilities (that’s what Nintendo Land is for), it flawlessly serves as a keyboard, as well as a way to play without needing the TV. If you’ve played the previous games in the series then you already know what to expect, but Unlimited offers more places to explore, more puzzles to solve, and more ways to solve them. If you’re grabbing a Wii U, Scribblenauts Unlimited is well worth your consideration.