Pros: Detailed object editor, goofy presentation
Cons:Too easy, no actual gameplay
Scribblenauts Unlimited is a game that will let you create almost anything. If you want a horse in the game, you can have a horse. If you want a blue horse that eats birds, you can have a blue horse that eats birds. When I first previewed a demo of the game, I was so excited by its object creation system that I thought, just playing with that without any gameplay at all would be fun. But I was wrong. I know that now, because Scribblenauts Unlimited is exactly that; an object-creation system with no true gameplay attached to it.
The Basics: Solve Puzzles with Anything. Anything!
I loved the original Scribblenauts on the DS, in which you were presented puzzles which you could solve with any object you could think of, be it a bridge, a flying horse, or a time machine. You just had to write the name of the object and it would be given to you. It was a unique and imaginative approach.
In Scribblenauts Unlimited you can customize your objects. You can ask for a bird, but you can also ask for a giant pink bird. You can add adjectives to existing people and objects; if you come across a vicious dog, you can edit it into a friendly dog.
Beyond that, you can go into the object editor and create objects to your exact specifications. You can create a monkey that other creatures react to as though it was a dinosaur, and that explodes when set on fire.
The Gameplay: Missing in Action
While the game gives you this wonderful tool, it doesn’t give you much to do with it. Instead, you wander a world in which distressed people ask for your help with very simple requests. If you are asked to give George Washington a present, give him a cherry tree. If a sculptor needs a tool to carve some stone, give him a chisel. If children want protection from a bully, turn him into a sleeping bully.
That’s it, that’s the “game.” You are asked for things, and you make them. This rarely involves any thought, and while you can create elaborate objects if you like, they are not required. Ultimately any entertainment you get out of the object editor must come from you. You could make a bird that eats horses and a horse that eats birds and let them try and eat each other, for example.
This makes Scribblenauts Unlimited less game than toy. In this it is like The Sims, a game in which gamers amused themselves by seeing what would happen if you put someone in a swimming pool without a ladder or made 10 people live in a house with only one bathroom. I liked The Sims better than this game, because it was a fancier toy, but ultimately I don’t want a toy: I want a game.
Refuting the Critic's Critics: No, This Isn't How the Series Started Out
The defense some people have made for Scribblenauts Unlimited, which has proven quite popular, is that all the Scribblenauts games are like this. But that isn’t true, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people are saying it is. The original Scribblenauts set sometimes difficult challenges you had to overcome with ingenuity. You had to kill monsters, push buttons, cross chasms, and other things that required thought and trial and error. Scribblenauts was a puzzle game. Scribblenauts Unlimited is more like a trivia game, in which you are asked insanely easy questions like, “what does Cleopatra like” or “what does a knight use to protect himself.” These are only puzzles if you are six years old.
The Verdict: A Huge Disappointment
As with the original DS game, Scribblenauts Unlimited is controlled through use of the touch screen. What this means is you will never have any reason to look at your TV – ever. You’ll just play it like a handheld game. The Wii U version is simply a handheld game you can’t play on the bus.
After I saw that demo, thiswas one of the Wii U games I was most looking forward to, but alas, it turned out to be my single biggest gaming disappointment of the year. In Scribblenauts Unlimited I can build an explosive horse or a giant bird, but I can’t build the one thing I really want; a fun video game.