By Damian Cavanagh
Superheroes. Who doesn’t love them? If you disagreed, then Scribblenauts Unmasked probably won’t be your cup of tea. This combination of a quietly successful videogame franchise and one of the world’s leading comic book companies presents a tongue-in-cheek romp through the DC Universe that's only restrained by how well you guide the lead character, Maxwell, and how creative you can be when using his notebook.
For those unfamiliar with the Scribblenauts concept, it doesn’t take much to get a handle on it: you are faced with a series of tasks that you need to complete. Your tool of choice to conquer these feats and lay waste to your enemies? A magical notebook that creates (almost) anything you write on it. Does someone declare they are hungry? Write the word "burrito", for example, and that should not only satisfy their appetite, but complete the assignment bestowed upon you.
The only thing limiting the outcome is your clean, ever so slightly censored imagination and your ability to spell words correctly. Other than that, the dictionary is your oyster, so to speak. Add to that ability the expansive DC Comics Universe and almost all that it encapsulates; and you have a myriad of outcomes just waiting to unfold.
The graphics for Scribblenauts Unmasked are, of course, quite cartoon-like, but the lines are much cleaner than previous games in the series. The colours aren’t that vibrant, leaning more towards dusty pastels. To me that offers a more authentic old-school comic book panel appearance.
Those of you who know a little about the DC Universe will enjoy what is on offer in Scribblenauts Unmasked. There are hundreds of characters available to conjure up. Personally, I spent nearly two hours poring through the nearly endless lists of both heroes and villains on the BatComputer, after the Dark Knight himself invited me to his secret hideout. I’d likely wager a dollar or two that even the most seasoned of comic book readers would be tempted to do the very same. Not only does it list characters but it also details weapons and accessories that they own, all of which are at your disposal via the notebook.
The notebook also allows you to add an adjective to a character to enhance their abilities. Villains can possess the power of Superman by simply adding "Super" in front of their name. Heroes can be made of gold or even be invisible, once again, only limited by your imagination.
The Doppelganger, a clone of Maxwell that features in previous Scribblenauts titles, has aligned himself with the villains of the DC Universe and is attempting to capture all of the Starites that have been released from a globe belonging to Maxwell’s sister. These Starites permit Maxwell the ability to transport himself between locations, both local and interplanetary. The main story or quests aren’t terribly long, but it’s what is available to do in each fictitious DC town or planet, after the fact, that’s lets you really delve into your vocabulary and get creative.
There is replay value here, as when you return to each location, different scenarios are on offer. These are often complimented by challenges issued my Mr. Mxyzptlk, an imp-like nemesis of Superman, offering double score for their completion. The script contains plenty of giggles as Maxwell and his sister Lily are totally star-struck by their new, heroic friends.
Playing on PC via Steam has its advantages and disadvantages. The first and most obvious one would be being able to use a keyboard to write in Maxwell’s notebook. This does help, but with the technology of today, there probably wouldn’t be too many people playing Scribblenauts Unmasked who haven’t used a touchscreen keyboard as you would in the WiiU and 3DS versions. The keyboard controls are slightly lacking, as at times I felt like I needed a third arm to operate smoothly. When Maxwell is in front of a staircase or an elevator, he is offered a direction to take, up or down. The directional icon must be clicked to execute the move, where a simple keystroke, W, S, Arrow Up or Arrow Down, should suffice. It is also quite easy to lose Maxwell if you are to bump or move the mouse while typing/writing in the notebook. This is easily rectified by clicking the Maxwell icon, but probably shouldn’t happen.
There is no real need to have played previous Scribblenauts titles before get stuck right into Scribblenauts Unmasked. With that being said, you’re sure to want to check out the back catalogue after your adventures with the Justice League. It’s not a new concept but it is improved by the addition of the likes of Batman, Superman and other DC Heroes and Villains. With Scribblenauts Unmasked creativity is key… as is a sense of humour and adventure. The platform you chose shouldn’t make a difference to the way the game unfolds.