Out of all the games that have debuted in this last generation, Scribblenauts may just be one of the most wildly impossible games out there, depending on how imaginative you are. The core concept hasn’t changed over the last couple of games; players have a bunch of puzzles to solve, and a magical book that can create pretty much anything that is written into it.
Carrying that legacy further comes Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure which puts a child-friendly spin on the famous heroes and villains of that comic book universe. But at the same time, it’s also one of the most faithful adaptations of that property that has ever been made.
Maxwell is back, but this time inside the DC Comics universe after its New 52 makeover. Alongside his sister Lily, Maxwell owns a book that will create whatever he writes inside of it. Unfortunately, his evil twin Doppleganger has come along for the ride and it’s up to Maxwell and Lily to save the day by teaming up with the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.
And a ton of other characters.
Why so serious?
Gameplay hasn’t exactly changed in this latest Scribblenauts game. Maxwell can still create anything he wants, as players engage on a 2D platforming jaunt across locations such as Gotham City and Metropolis. Puzzles are still the primary focus here, but Maxwell can also throw down when the situation calls for it, summoning anything from guns through to DC characters like the Green Lantern planet Mogo and seeing what results he gets.
And that’s where the real meat of the game lies. Scribblenauts Unmasked is a game for the fans, as stages are littered with in-jokes, references and Easter eggs from the printed pages of those comics. For instance; want to summon Batman to help you? Hell, why not summon Black Lantern Batman and watch the zombified caped crusader tear Victor Zsasz a new one?
Back in a Flash
Each stage in the game in based on a familiar DC locale, such as the aforementioned Gotham City and Metropolis, and stretches towards the JLA Watchtower and even further beyond to Oa, homeworld of the Green Lanterns. They’re also home to your main quests, as Maxwell has to fix the damage caused by Doppleganger and the DC villains, earning Reputation Points in the process.
These points can then be used to buy new stages and items, keeping the cycle going. Story missions are short and sweet, but there’s plenty of them present throughout the game. The fun factor is present in the variety present in these main missions. For instance, Superman needs to find a way to rescue Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen from a grisly Baysplosion demise, but can’t get close enough because of Metallo and his Kryptonite heart.
My solution? Slap a jet pack on, handcuff Metallo to myself and fly him out of the way in time for Superman to save the day. And that was just the beginning, as Lex Luthor soon showed up with superpowers of his own and a grudge to settle. That’s how you handle a Man of Steel game. High stakes, high action and all that.
Now compare that to a Batman level where I had to slap on some fancy duds and find out what immortal villain Ra’s al Ghul was up to in Wayne Manor, and you’ll see that developer 5th Cell is having a ball of a time with their license, adapting characters to suit some truly strange puzzles.
In brightest day, in blackest night
But it’s also a fun game in which the side-quests can also be rewarding. Characters such as the Riddler may pop up with a challenge or two, or you’ll find yourself trying to stop Solomon Grundy from going on a nursery rhyme rampage. Some of these puzzles are ludicrous in nature, but the solution to solving them comes in multiple flavours, leaving players plenty of options.
It’s not all perfect though. The Reputation Points system can be inflexible at times, and some of the puzzles require solutions so obscure, you’d have to be madder than the Joker to think them up. Likewise with creating certain objects, you will find yourself on occasion getting the wrong item at the worst possible time, which means that a restart is necessary. A restart with an unskippable cut-scene that can get quickly old.
Still, for a light-hearted game, 5th Cell has done their homework. there’s a ton of content to unlock as you progress, custom heroes to create and storyline that will have you chuckling more than once. The game itself is a 4-5 hour experience to finish the main story, but it’s satisfying when you do find the perfect solution.
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a PC