I’d like to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable when it comes to Batman, and specifically his rogue’s gallery. Everyone knows The Joker, The Penguin, and Catwoman, and some even know Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and The Riddler. I prided myself on knowing more obscure villains, such as Killer Moth, The Ventriloquist, False Face, The Mad Hatter, and Marsha, the Queen of Diamonds.
But I’d like to point out that Scribblenauts Unmasked left me looking like a chump while introducing me to Onomatopoeia, The Calculator, and Crazy Quilt. And I’m totally okay with that.
The latest in the Scribblenauts series that originated from the 3DS, Scribblenauts Unmasked is the second in the series to be released on the Wii U, and gameplay remains similar to the original title and its sequels. Unmasked reveals that Maxwell, the hero of the series, and his sister Lily are both comic book fans, but they have differing opinions on which superhero is the best. Maxwell contends that Batman is the best one, while Lily goes for Superman. They go back and forth for a bit, then decide to settle it once and for all.
Then they go play Injustice.
OK, they don’t do that. What they do instead is utilize Maxwell’s notebook that can produce anything written inside of it, alongside Lily’s magic transporting globe and zap themselves into the fictional Gotham City. They meet Batman, but the Caped Crusader is none too happy to see them, as Maxwell matches the description of a new villain terrorizing the citizens of Gotham. Maxwell, Lily, and Batman soon discover that it’s not a new member of his rogue’s gallery, but that Doppleganger, originally introduced in Super Scribblenauts, somehow made his way to Gotham City as well, and now pals around with none other than The Joker. In order to get back home (and take Doppleganger with them) Maxwell and Lily have to traverse the pages of the DC Comics library to find the Starites from Lily’s broken globe.
Those who have never played a Scribblenauts series but like the DC Universe appeal should not worry; Unmasked does a great job in its tutorial sequences, easily explaining gameplay, progressing in the game and story, and how to utilize Maxwell’s notepad for both items and adjectives. The list is almost endless. Very rarely did I punch in a word and not have the game recognize it, creating everything from boxing gloves to dinosaurs to tuna salad. Adjectives can be used on anything, such as a “healthy” Maxwell, a “fancy” suit, or a “sleepy” enemy.
In addition to his notebook, Maxwell has remote access to the Batcomputer, compiling a veritable plethora of heroes, villains, and equipment from the DC universe, ranging from the familiar (The Flash, Catwoman, Batgirl) to the obscure (Bizarro, White Rabbit, Krypto the Wonder Dog). The Batcomputer also has a blurb about each character which can be used in solving puzzles, such as using Aquaman to battle electrified enemies. Some puzzles are DCU-specific. In a portion of Central City, Hal Jordan muses if there are ever any other versions of a person in alternate universes. It may seem just like philosophic pondering, but any comic book fan would tell you that not only is it plausible, but sometimes completely necessary, and writing in the name of any other version of the Green Lantern (such as John Stewart) solves the puzzle and earns Reputation points.
Reputation points run in three varieties and will unlock new areas to explore, such as Wayne Manor, Arkham Asylum, the Watchtower, and the aforementioned Central City. Each area has a Blue Starite which will progress the story forward, and several challenges for Maxwell to complete. If one is too hard, simply visit another area; when you revisit, the challenges will have changed.
The variety of ways to progress through the game makes it so any playstyle can enjoy Unmasked. It also ensures that those who may not be so comic-savvy can still complete the game. Puzzles usually have more than one method of solution. For example, a citizen stating they’re cold can be given a sweater, a mug of hot chocolate, described with the adjective “warm,” or introduced to Firefly, though that could present repercussions.
Between all the different unlockable areas and costumes for Maxwell, Scribblenauts Unmasked provides serious play time with a format that can be grinded out or can be played a bit at a time. The art style is reminiscent of the prior titles, which basically means it looks like it’s drawn by a kid. And in this case, that’s exactly what’s needed, though admittedly Unmasked‘s art looks a little slicker than other titles, due to its comic book nature.
If there is one major flaw (and it is major) it’s that story mode is so, so short. A lot of time can be spent unlocking everything, but the actual story mode only consists of one set of challenges per level. Anyone can hunker down and play and find themselves at the end of story mode within a day, including the grinding required to gain Reputation. A casual gamer could stretch it out, but anyone who finds themselves sucked in by the innovative gameplay could quickly find themselves at the end of the tunnel.
Despite the short storyline, the art, the puzzles, and the charm makes Scribblenauts Unmasked a solid addition to the finally-blooming Wii U library. This game has got the write stuff. (Yikes. Maybe I should have Maxwell start writing my punchlines too.)
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013
Developed by 5th Cell
Rated E for everyone
Review based on Wii U port. Also available for 3DS and Windows.