First Look: Scribblenauts Unlimited
The Scribblenauts franchise makes its first leap into consoles with the arrival of the Wii U. But this is no port. Scribblenauts Unlimited explodes the entire premise with a wide-open world to explore, the power to create anything you can imagine, and (at last!) Maxwell’s backstory.
5th Cell made one of the Nintendo DS’ killer apps when it released the sandbox game Scribblenauts. Just by typing or writing a word into the game, players could conjure up virtually anything. Puzzles were solved by using main character Maxwell’s magic notepad to bring useful things into being. The game’s Free Play mode — essentially a playground where you could create anything you wanted and then watch to see what happened — was a blast, in the best tradition of Will Wright‘s The Sims and Spore.
Super Scribblenauts added adjectives to the mix, letting players specify far more unique kinds of objects and puzzle solutions. An iOS port, Scribblenauts Remix, brought the best aspects of both games to iPhone and iPad. Neither of these games, while fun to play, pushed the original game forward all that much.
Scribblenauts Unlimited, exclusively for Wii U, turns the premise into a huge, side-scrolling platformer. It’s set in an enormous open world that you can explore at will, but its real innovation is the object creator. Using this new tool, you can create entirely new objects that mix-and-match parts of other objects, and then assign your new object its own unique properties. For example, instead of a car, you could create a triceratops with wheels instead of legs. If you need it to be weaponized, instead of just strapping a gun or a missile launcher to the hood, you could create a cannon that shoots glowing horseshoes, and mount it on your vehicle.
5th Cell isn’t saying how many unique object parts are available to use in the game, but in a scenario like this, it sounds like the possibilities are nearly limitless. Once you’re happy with your creation, not only can you insert it into the game world to see what happens, you can share your creations other players online. They can then use your creation or alter it to suit their purposes. Drop-in/out co-op is also being added for the first time, and the developers’ solution for multiplayer is just as clever as you’d expect. Instead of adding another human character for second, third, or fourth players to control, additional players will pick up a Wiimote and take control of any object in the game they like (such as my triceratops car), guiding it through the game alongside the main player’s Maxwell.
Along the way, Scribblenauts Unlimited will fill in the story of Maxwell, the series’ cute main character. He’s been the protagonist of every game, but aside from his possession of that magic notepad, we know nothing about him. This game will finally reveal just who Maxwell is, along with his parents and twin sister Lily, and how he acquired that marvelous notepad.
With 41 levels, 50+ starites, and 500+ starite shards, 5th Cell is promising at least 20 hours of gameplay for the main campaign, and unlimited replayability since you can use any of those levels as a Free Play playground. Scribblenauts Unlimited will be a launch title for Wii U when the new console arrives this Christmas.