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Scribblenauts Unlimited - Hands on Preview

A Game That Promises to Be Limited Only By Your Imagination

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Scribblenauts Unlimited - Hands on Preview

While the graphics are simple, the underlying mechanics are quite elaborate.

Warner Bros.

One of the few surprise announcements Nintendo made at video game trade show E3 in June was that the Wii U would be home to a Scribblenauts game. I was as excited as any Scribblenauts fan to hear the news, but I wasn’t nearly as excited as I became once I had the opportunity to try out that game, Scribblenauts Unlimited.

In the original Scribblenauts, players used tools to solve puzzles. The game was notable because you could chose the tool not out of an inventory but out of your brain; type the name of pretty much anything – a unicorn, a bridge, a boat, a plumber – and the game would give it to you. The sequel added the ability to use adjectives, letting players create, for example, pink dinosaurs.

Unlimited takes this much further. Not only can you create virtually any object that exists in life or myth, but you can create bizarre combinations and give them interesting characteristics. For example, I made a ghost. Then I made it electric. I gave it an explosive weapon. And I programmed it (yes, there is actually a simple programming language that can be used to give objects a series of tasks to perform under the correct circumstances) to attack cats. And while it did not, in fact, attack the cat I put near it (the PR flack showing me the game said you sometimes have to experiment a while to get the behavior you want to work right), I can imagine nothing as much fun as sitting down and creating an electric blue ghost that attacks cats, giving it a pirate hat and a beard and then creating a giant, ghost-attacking cat with the tail of a horse who can fire explosives. And as far as I can tell, that is entirely possible.

Not only that, but you will be able to send objects you create to friends through the Nintendo Network online system, and these friends can then edit your creations as they see fit. I expect to see some pretty extraordinary creatures come out of this game.

I had a limited amount of time to play Unlimited at Nintendo’s New York press demo, and I was so enamored of the programming feature that I didn’t get a chance to check out much of the actual gameplay. What I saw was an open world environment with various people and creatures in it. Click on one and it will tell you what it wants. When a lumberjack asked for help cutting down a tree I gave him a saw, although it turned out that the girl next to him was an environmentalist who got very upset when the tree came down. I’m not sure if it’s possible to make them both happy.

I only got to play with Unlimited for 10 or 15 minutes, so I barely scratched the surface of the game. I didn’t even get to play with Maxwell, the game’s avatar, although I did see a picture of him that I presumably could activate in order to use him in some way.

One oddity of the game is that while playing it, you will probably never look up at your TV. Because you need to look at the screen in order to type words or put objects together, there is no impetus to look up at the TV, which simply shows the same thing as the touchscreen. This makes playing the game feel very much like playing a handheld game (and, in fact, the game will also come out for the 3DS). In spite of this, Scribblenauts Unlimited is looking to be one of the best Wii U games that will come out this winter.

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