The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Scribblenauts Unmasked asks players to comfort a teary-eyed Bruce
Wayne moments after he witnesses the death of his parents. He can’t be
conversed with, nor can he be pulled in for a hug; the only solution
available is using a magic notebook, which transforms any word written
on its pages into an object. What item could calm a grieving child? My
first thought was to hand young Wayne a handkerchief. He took it from
me, but his tears didn’t slow. My second attempt was creating a car to
drive him away from this grisly scene. He climbed in to the passenger
seat, but again his mood didn’t change. Not knowing what the game wanted
from me, I wrote “giant cheeseburger” into the notebook, and a tower of
meat and buns almost the same height as Wayne appeared onscreen. I
handed it to him, and his tears vanished. A word balloon from Batman
appeared: “From that night forward I vowed to destroy crime.”
Although this entry of the Scribblenauts series is set within DC
Comics’ universe, it hasn’t lost its goofy charm, or its ability to turn
a straightforward objective into a wildly imaginative exploration of
ideas – even if the solutions are sometimes befuddling. The comic-book
tie gives players more word-based ammo to play with, and knowledge of
DC’s lore – though occasionally helpful – isn’t required.
At any point during play, the Batcomputer can be accessed to bring up
lists for all of the heroes, villains, vehicles, equipment, and teams
featured in the game. As a comic fan, my first hour was spent scrolling
through the database of characters to see who made the cut and who
didn’t. Oddballs like Blubber (the humanoid whale) are not included, but
I was surprised to see many of New 52’s characters like Talon present.
Typing in “Batman” brings up 34 different versions of him, including
most of Grant Morrison’s variations that we all want to forget about.
Almost every character I summoned was equipped with his or her signature
powers and weaknesses. Little touches like Batman refusing to use
firearms are also present. Players can also create their own characters,
customize their behaviors, equipment, movement, and scripting, and
summon them at any time by inputting their names. My feared Cowman gave
Superman a run for his money.
If heroes and villains share the same frame in a comic book, a punch
is usually thrown. The same goes in Scribblenauts Unmasked, only you may
not be able to pinpoint who threw the punch. Characters charge headlong
into each other, melding into an indistinguishable pile of thrashing
body parts, elemental blasts, and onomatopoeia.
Combat is Scribblenauts Unmasked's kryptonite, and Maxwell engages in
it just as much as he uses his notebook. This is a change in direction
for the series; the star-grabbing puzzles are still here, but they share
the spotlight with combat. Unfortunately, this happy-go-lucky kid isn’t
exactly the most coordinated or skilled warrior. Maxwell’s punches are
slow and lack range, perhaps a little too true to his character. He can
wield almost any weapon the player can dream up, but no firearm or
prized trident makes the frays enjoyable. I cheesed the adjectives
“super” and “giant,” which raise Maxwell’s offensive and defensive
capabilities to the point of him being Hulk-like, and simply jammed on
the attack button to swat away the enemy swarms. One-on-one battles are
easier to read, but fall victim to uninspired repetition.
A few of the combat scenarios push the player to come up with
creative solutions to stop specific foes. I enjoyed most of these tests,
as they feel more like extensions of Scribblenauts' traditional
These moments are usually tied to story missions. Yes, Scribblenauts
Unmasked places Maxwell and his sister Lily in a surprisingly wordy
narrative that has the duo hunting down an evil Maxwell doppelganger
sporting a magic book of his own. While this story is mostly a vehicle
to shuttle the protagonists to iconic locations filled with iconic
characters, the conflict is fun to follow and delivers some amusing
moments for DC Comics fans.
Most of the content is aimed at this crowd. Bonus origin stories,
Mxyzptlk periodically showing up to propose challenges, and Maxwell
taking a slight jab at the number of Flashes in the universe are just a
few of the examples.
Outside of the narrative-driven critical path, side missions are
randomly generated each time the player enters a new location. These
missions don’t often have ties to the particular locales, and are more
in the vein of traditional Scribblenauts objectives. I was in Gotham
City, yet my tasks were to play volleyball with a citizen, turn a Green
Lantern’s cow green, and find a way to cover up Krona’s bald spot.
I enjoyed Scribblenauts Unmasked's encyclopedic exploration of DC's
universe. Many of the puzzle challenges are also quite clever in their
design and solutions. I just wish the heroes and villains would put
aside their differences. In most cases, when they come to blows, the
experience turns into a bothersome mess.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.