Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure 3DS Review
Fans of Nintendo, you know what Scribblenauts is. There’s a magic notebook, a magic globe, and two siblings that just so happen to use them in conjunction. So, with that being said, this game was pretty much inevitable. 5th Cell and Warner Brothers have been making these games together from the start. With new shows like Teen Titans GO!, Beware The Batman, Young Justice, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Warner has attempted to regain the younger audience. However, does this inevitable pairing lead to a worthwhile game in Scribblenauts Unmasked?
The game starts off with a prologue from Alfred Pennyworth of all people, talking of heroes and what makes a good one. The story turns quickly to Maxwell and Lily reading comics and arguing over who is the best comic book hero. They decide to use the notebook and the globe to create Gotham City as a real place, and to go there. This winds up being a somewhat foolish idea; the plan works, as they end up in Gotham, but Lily’s globe is broken, and the starites contained therein scatter throughout DC’s post-Flashpoint pre-Trinity War New Earth (something deduced by the characters present in the story, and which you can create). Your job becomes reclaiming those starites so that the DC villains (namely some members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, a few Superman rivals, and enemies of the Justice League in general) can not claim them and use them for nefarious ends. A mysterious controller is guiding them the entire time, and to complicate matters, Maxwell’s evil copy, Doppelganger, is helping him and all of the other DC villains. The final showdown is one that you should totally see coming, but it is a fitting conclusion.
As far as the actual game play goes, it is much the same as the previous games. Your ultimate goal is to navigate through numerous challenges so that you can claim the starites scattered throughout the world. You have obstacles in your path, either that the game environments generate if it is a random instance, or which Doppelganger creates in order to assist the DC villains. You get around these by typing words on the lower screen in order to generate objects to assist you, or to modify existing objects, people, and even Maxwell. After the first mission in Gotham, you begin to gain the ability to travel throughout the DC universe in order to confront Doppelganger and his villain allies, with each successful confrontation leading to the acquisition of another starite. Within these levels, along with the regular plot missions, there are also random instance encounters, similar to what you would get in an MMO. They serve as a way to expand the game, but because they are necessary to progress instead of simply an option, they can at times become tedious. The reason that they are necessary is that in the game, there is a transaction system that operates off of reputation points. They are either affiliated with Batman, Superman, or the Justice League, and correspond to different purchases. The purchases that are available with these reputation points include levels within the game. Strangely, the regular missions do not give enough reputation on their own to allow players to progress to successive levels, making for an experience that recalls the “slogging” of many an RPG. A final mechanic of game play comes in the introduction of that well-known imp from the 5th Dimension, Mr. Mxysptlk. He ostensibly shows up because he finds Maxwell’s exploits even better than those of Superman’s, and so wishes to give Maxwell some extra challenges, all of which can add substantially to your reputation, but some of which are completely ridiculous, given their nature. Luckily, you can choose to refuse these challenges, so it isn’t as if, every time he pops up, you are suddenly in big trouble.
The graphics are the biggest let-down with this title. When 5th Cell could have really embraced the 3D technology, they instead decided that their regular interface and display style were perfectly okay. The top screen, save for the opening and closing videos, is used entirely in 2D. It either is an info pane or a dialogue window, and although they are in wide screen, there is no difference between the graphics styles on the top and bottom screens. The only major positives come from the inclusion of the DC franchise. The game promises DC Comics characters in Scribblenauts art style, and from the level design to the character art to the other DC objects, the company delivers. When you have attention to detail on something as random as Larfleeze, that catches your eye. The fact that so many DC characters, good and bad, are in the database, and their sprites are incredibly accurate to their portrayal, makes up for some of the deficit in the use of the system for an improved graphical system.
Ultimately, with Scribblenauts Unmasked, 5th Cell and Warner Games have made a game that is definitely worth playing, but which could have had much more to it. The inclusion of DC Comics characters was a brilliant stroke, and the story and the overall game in relation to them is also very good. The nature of the game means that practically all individuals can play the game, whether they are children just learning to spell, or adults that want to go to town with some of their favorite characters. The fact that is seems more like a DS game that was on the 3DS because it is the only option. Definitely a game to get if you have kids, but if not, you may want to hold out until it goes on discount.