Scribblenauts Unlimited

Engage Imagination With This Sort-Of Video Game
by Kyle Hilliard on Nov 19, 2012 at 07:53 AM
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: 5th Cell
Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed on: 3DS
Also on: Wii U

Scribblenauts Unlimited is the kind of thing I want to show off to my non-gamer parents and give to children to tap into their creative potential. It straddles the line of being a video game and something that feels more like thoughtful creative software.

Creative puzzle-solving is still the emphasis in Unlimited. They start easy – you find a hungry dog, and you have to write down what dogs like to eat. Initially it feels like you’re answering simple vocabulary questions, but later puzzles make you work harder. Some of the most enjoyable puzzle outcomes occur when you type in some crazy word that you’re not completely sure will work. When it does, it’s hard not to be impressed with both yourself and the game.

Some puzzles offer light platforming, but these segments limit your vocabulary. For example, I couldn’t apply the adjective “invincible” to myself when faced with a flame obstacle, which kind of defeats the purpose of being able to write and create anything, but these types of puzzles are infrequent.

One of the new features is the presence of a story, which finally gives some context to Maxwell’s magic notebook and introduces us to his sister. Maxwell and his sister set out on a journey to help the people of the world, but Maxwell’s sister gets a spell cast on her, slowly turning her into stone. The only way for Maxwell to save her from becoming a statue is to solve puzzles. Offering this little bit of story context adds some much-needed danger to Scribblenauts. As you check up on Maxwell’s sister every few levels, seeing her gradual transformation is sad. In previous titles, players were given no context for their action, so it’s nice to have at least some kind of emotional anchor.

The larger and 3D-capable top screen contains your puzzle solving progress and a lovely animated Maxwell, but that’s it. All of the action and gameplay takes place on the lower screen. It would have been nice to see more of the game take place on the larger screen, but functionally it makes sense why everything happens below.

To push Scribblenauts Unlimited to the limits of its vocabulary is impressive, and seeing how objects interact with one another is always amusing. Scribblenauts Unlimited’s ability to blur the line between game and toy is one of its greatest strengths. Finding the more obscure and bizarre ways to solve puzzles is where the experience shines, largely because it’s the kind of fun you create for yourself. The Wii U version of Scribblenauts Unlimited is the truly unlimited version of the game. I was disappointed to see that the item creation tools of the console version of the game were completely cut for the 3DS, but otherwise this is still a full and worthwhile Scribblenauts installment.

Scribblenauts Unlimited cover
Scribblenauts Unlimited

The 3DS version of Scribblenauts Unlimited shares many of the same features as its Wii U brother, but it is missing one or two crucial additions.

Game Informer's Review System
Concept Stuff even more words and items into the Scribblenauts universe, throw in some new creation options, and add a pinch of story
Graphics The high-definition colors look great, and the art style is as charming as ever. The 3D effect is relegated exclusively to cutscenes, which is surprising, but not disappointing
Sound The music rests pleasantly in the background and the sound effects are often hilarious accompaniments to your summoned objects
Playability You can use the buttons, but often you’re better off sticking exclusively to the touch-screen
Entertainment Maxwell’s Universe breeds creativity and unexpected situations, but it doesn’t always feel like a game
Replay High