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Review

Scribblenauts Unmasked Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • WIIU
  • 3DS

Imagination's Kryptonite.

Maxwell has an amazing power. The young star of the Scribblenauts games can conjure objects out of thin air and apply properties to himself or to anything around him. In theory, this sounds like the ultimate superpower, an ability that gives you access to just about any power you can think of. Just tap Maxwell and type "flying," and you can take to the skies. Tap an enemy and type "frozen," and he stops in his tracks. The only limit should be your imagination, and Maxwell should fit right in with the likes of Batman, Superman, and the hundreds of other DC universe characters who can be summoned in Scribblenauts Unmasked. But unfortunately, your real battles in Unmasked aren't with the likes of Lex Luthor and the Joker, but with the often-frustrating logic of the game itself.

Scribblenauts Unmasked whisks Maxwell and his sister Lily to the DC universe, but their arrival brings chaos to the streets of Gotham, the skyscrapers of Metropolis, and other famous locations. That's because Maxwell's mischievous doppelganger has also come to the world, and he pairs up with numerous supervillains who are attempting to harness the power of the starites that have become scattered about the universe. So as Maxwell, you traipse through locales, helping citizens in order to earn reputation that lets you access still more locations, and every once in a while engaging in a structured encounter with a supervillain to secure a starite.

Bruce Wayne really should close the door to his laundry room when he has guests over.

With the exception of the starite battles, most incidents you happen upon throughout the game are randomly generated, so you can return to Atlantis or Arkham Asylum over and over again and find new problems to solve. Unfortunately, more often than not, these problems lack any sense of comic-book pizzazz, and just feel like mundane tasks. People ask you to collect objects scattered around the environment, or to toss a soccer ball into a goal. The tasks on offer are often surreal. A waiter might inform you that his ATM has been taken (yes, his personal ATM), or a talking bass might ask you to give him a new tail. Most of these problems are easily solved and require little creativity, and too many of them feel at odds with the game's superhero theme and setting.

Still, there are plenty of opportunities for masked vigilantes and men of steel to make themselves useful. The sheer number of DC characters in Unmasked is impressive. Type in "Batman," and you're presented with a slew of caped crusaders to choose from. Do you want Batman Beyond Batman, Year One Batman, or Armored The Dark Knight Returns Batman? But the game's character library extends far beyond well-known characters like Aquaman and The Flash. If your knowledge of DC characters doesn't already include the likes of Aztek and Triplicate Girl, not to worry. You can browse the batcomputer at any time looking for heroes and villains, and read brief bios of each character. And on the PC and Wii U, you can create and share characters and objects, so if you want Rorschach or Captain America's shield or Sylvia Plath to play a part in your adventures, you can make that happen.

You can play through brief versions of the origin stories of The Flash, Superman, and other heroes.

But while the quantity of DC characters on offer is amazing, it quickly becomes frustrating that they don't often behave in ways that you might want them to. If you find a wall of huge ice cubes standing between you and a starite, for instance, you might summon one of the game's many variations of Superman, thinking that he can use his heat vision to easily eliminate this obstruction. Instead, though, Supes just stands there, seemingly clueless as to how he can offer you any assistance. Frustrations with the logic and behavior of objects and adjectives in the game extend well beyond the DC characters. In that same conundrum, for instance, you might apply the adjective "melting" to the ice cubes, but while this results in them giving off drops of water in a way that suggests they're melting, they never actually melt.

The failure of adjectives to work the way they should is an issue throughout the game; you come up with solutions to problems that seem sound, but that don't work, so you feel as if you're struggling not so much with the problems Maxwell is faced with, but with the game's systems. Eventually you find nouns and adjectives that are so effective at helping you overcome specific types of problems that you'll likely rely on them over and over again. The game encourages you to change things up, offering only 50 percent of the reputation reward if you use the same word twice within the same scenario, but you move from locale to locale so frequently that this is no impediment.

Additionally, Mr. Mxyzptlk periodically offers you an opportunity to earn double reputation if you agree to his conditions. These are sometimes easily manageable (each object in the world has random adjectives assigned to it, so you encounter things like tsunamic trophic theoretical telepathic roses and fat fire-breathing flat armed extinguished firemen) and sometimes quite challenging (you can only use words starting with the letter J). But these challenges are always optional, and if one has you overly flummoxed, you can cancel it at any time.

What's cooler than summoning Batman? Summoning a giant kitty cat, of course!

Scribblenauts Unmasked looks endearing. But its charms too often give way to boredom as you find yourself doing menial tasks in locations known for being extraordinary, and to exasperation as things don't work the way you think they should. And of course, there are opportunities here to come up with your own unusual and goofy scenarios--What would happen if Superman and God got in a fight?--but the results are never as interesting as your imaginative ideas deserve. You're better off using your imagination within the confines of your own mind, where you can soar the skies of Metropolis unfettered by the faulty and limited logic imposed by Scribblenauts Unmasked.

The Good
Huge database of DC characters, famous and obscure
Endearing depictions of heroes and locations
The Bad
Many tasks are mundane and out of place
Characters and attributes often don't behave like you think they should
The same few nouns and adjectives can get you through most situations
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Carolyn Petit had never played a Scribblenauts game before, but she has been saving universes with the power of her imagination ever since she saw The NeverEnding Story as a child.

Discussion

108 comments
FuBi2k
FuBi2k

Oh Carolyn, you really didn't think to add "allied" to spawned heroes you want to fight for you? Anyway, it's a fun relaxer of a game if you're a DC geek and have an imagination. =] 7/10 for what it is.

chyng85
chyng85

Still wanna try it~! 

halovsmetroid2
halovsmetroid2

The one problem i have with this review is when listing 'you can play the orgin stories of superman, flash and other heroes' batman is listed under other heroes.

TheLightElf
TheLightElf

Summon Batman. . summon a leash.  Put said leash on Batman and you can drag him around!

kkxtrouble
kkxtrouble

After watching some gameplay of the game on youtube, it just doesn't seem fun.

You don't you a lot of you "scribble" power in the game, and it is so focused on fighting that it loses a lot of its appeal. It is scribblenauts without the puzzle elemtent, I'll saty with unlimited, thank you.

HadOne2Many
HadOne2Many

I hope this comes out for tablets like Scribblenauts Remix did.  My 5 year old would love to play it and $0.99 seems to be about the right price.

DocSanchez
DocSanchez

Another underwhelming Wii U game.

Thing about the Scribblenauts franchise is, once you've pissed around with figuring out what you can conjure, it's pretty boring.

dariusq
dariusq

"And on the PC and Wii U, you can create and share characters and objects, so if you want Rorschach or Captain America's shield or Sylvia Plath to play a part in your adventures, you can make that happen." And with that quote Carolyn has officially labeled herself a poser. 

Jak Gibberish
Jak Gibberish

This logo and image just seems ripped off from, The Simpsons

noandno
noandno

Can I summon a Heavyweight Misogynist?

G4m3r0uTL4wZ
G4m3r0uTL4wZ

lol that superman/Lex luthor fight at the end...

shreddyz
shreddyz

Nice work trashing on a kids game. lol

snake63
snake63

Scribblenauts Unmasked feels like those old Colorforms toys.

Queuingreturns
Queuingreturns

PC has such "great" exclusives.

All that processing power and they can't even make it look nor play "good".

Ahahahaahahahahaha. XD.

zatorys
zatorys

i will go with ign on this 

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

pff IGN gave it 9.0. My question is not whether to buy it or not. y question would be whether to buy this or by the original one on Wii U

zyxahn
zyxahn

It makes sense.  If it's a superhero then you would be excited to play it figuring on that premise.  If the joy of summoning a bunch of them is lost in the games logic and mechanics then why in the hell did they bother to make the game.  Like making a lego game without legos.

nait2k4
nait2k4

Thanks Caro, good review. Having watched a few gameplay videos, it seems to have a fair share of bullshit fetch quests, and other junk that makes little sense. Doesn't quite have the same kind of charm as the earlier games :(

d33pak001
d33pak001

Amazing review...After playing unlimited I was really excited for this one(specially after hearing that you can summon Swamp Thing).....but playing it was a drag, felt like a side scrolling action game....

Outatomomega
Outatomomega

I'm shocked, I guess this is one of those games that are tailored to a specific taste. 

Snakepond1
Snakepond1

Game reviews are useless opinions in my opinion. IGN gives it 91% and Ganespot 50%. How is it possible that two professional and respected sites give a game two entirely different scores? I can understand a 20% difference, but 41% this is ridiculous.

Texasguy
Texasguy

@dariusq I'm not a fan of the author's reviews but they were talking about using the creation tool. 

Edit: I realize you might have been saying you couldn't because of copyright but you can get around that

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@dariusq The hell? lol
Any cheap excuse to bash a reviewer? like this new trend in Gamespot mandates? Now THAT is being a poser...

shreddyz
shreddyz

@noandno This game is politically muddled but that's ok because the kids won't mind..

blitzinD
blitzinD

@shreddyz 

Why should this game be exempt from criticism simply because it is for kids?

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@Queuingreturns Are you blaming PC in general for a particular case of bad code optimization? really?

Sounds like the fanboy conversations you would see in the door of a school. what are you? 10 y/o?

mr_gibberish
mr_gibberish

@Queuingreturns Wait, am I missing something here. Why you on about PC's "great exclusives" when this is a review for a Wii U game?

Planeforger
Planeforger

@Queuingreturns This guy apparently doesn't realise that the PC has far more highly rated exclusives in 2013 (including the two highest-rated games of the year) than any of its competitors.

arindam1
arindam1

@Queuingreturns  game is not about using the cpu power to the max. if you want to troll at least troll smart.

kkxtrouble
kkxtrouble

@zatorys The metacritic score is 6.6, IGN's is score is waaaay too high.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@nait2k4 I miss the feeling the first one left when I tried it. Guess this game's main attraction point was innovation. After so many iterations... well...

bbq_R0ADK1LL
bbq_R0ADK1LL

@Snakepond1 Have a look at TotalBiscuit's vid on youtube. It's not a full review but it will give you a pretty good idea of what actual gameplay is like. He talks about the problems with the game, but shows enough that you can make up your own mind.

I'm increasingly finding that a score is much less valuable than someone actually talking about what is good & bad in the game. A number without much detail on how they came up with it is not very useful.

supermoc10
supermoc10

@Snakepond1 Reviews aren't useless, scores are. They're just here for people to lazy to actually read the review but GS already has stuff like "Great", "Excellent", "Mediocre", etc. so there's no point.

RobDev
RobDev

@Snakepond1 meta critic gives it a 66, so on average only a 16% fdifference. thats why you don;t take one review in isolation. The IGN guy might have a Dc hard on. who knows?


BlessTheMusic
BlessTheMusic

@Snakepond1 There was once upon a time where I thought Dark Souls was one of the best games of all time. My friend on the other hand, hated the game and thought it was trash. Since he didn't have the same opinion as me we executed him in front of the city, because since I am the main source of game reviews, he can only think of it slightly worse than myself, not have a completely different opinion.

soulless4now
soulless4now

@Snakepond1 It's not the first time. IGN usually scores games higher than GS, but it makes me wonder how much time do the reviewers play the games before writing them. That could be an underlying factor. 

dariusq
dariusq

@Texasguy You can try and patch something together using the creation mode but believe me it isn't that good. I suppose you could still name it Captain America but it wouldn't really look much like him.

dariusq
dariusq

@Warlord_Irochi @dariusqOf the 3 very specific items she mentioned you could conjure in the game none of them are possible. She could easily have said "everything and the kitchen sink" which would ironically have been more accurate (because you can actually produce a kitchen sink). That's a pretty clear case of ignorance feigning knowledge. So yeah, poser.

TriggerManX97
TriggerManX97

@blitzinD @shreddyz it shouldn't be exempt from criticism, but like he said this game is made for children so you shouldn't expect it to be Very Complex, that being said they should have put in an extra set of level that would be Trickier to complete.

Roger01
Roger01

@Planeforger @Queuingreturns What are the two highest rated games of the year? (legit question, not me being fascetious, it's just so I can know and get them :P)

Dreamagus
Dreamagus

@BlessTheMusic @Snakepond1 your friend totally had it coming, though...

jotalandia
jotalandia

@BlessTheMusic @Snakepond1

nice, trash years of Critical thinking, journalism college, and resume, in a nutshell, that professionals reviews as goods as a bar talk.

Why study if everything is so simple as that.

dariusq
dariusq

@Warlord_Irochi @dariusq She could have easily made reference to any number of non-specific copyright things. She choose those specific things because she thought it made her sound like she knew what she was talking about.

Neonisin
Neonisin

@jotalandia @BlessTheMusic @Snakepond1 I beg your pardon?

Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure More Info

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  • First Released
    • 3DS
    • PC
    • Wii U
    Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure challenges you to use your imagination to battle the mightiest villains in an action-filled adventure through Gotham City, Metropolis, Atlantis, and other iconic locales from the DC Comics universe.
    6.6
    Average User RatingOut of 20 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
    Developed by:
    5TH Cell
    Published by:
    Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Genres:
    Platformer, 2D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief