Scribblenauts Unlimited is one of the best games you’ll play this year
Scribblenauts is one of those intriguing franchises that started off with a great concept coupled with poor execution – yet has honed the original idea, and eventually gotten to a point where it’s hugely entertaining and exactly what we were hoping for in the first place.
Scribblenauts Unlimited is the first of the franchise for PC, and it couldn’t have been a better moment for PC gamers to jump in. This is a game that wants you to be wacky, thoughtful, insane, clever, devious, outlandish – it really doesn’t matter how you approach its puzzles, there’s always a solution for how you’re currently feeling.
Maxwell and his magic pen have got into a bit of trouble. A wizard has cast a spell on Maxwell’s sister, slowly turning her to stone. Maxwell needs to head out into the world and do good deeds for people, in order to collect Starites and, in turn, save his sister.
Simple, right? Well his ability to make any item at all appear simply by writing it definitely helps. By typing in anything you can think of – literally anything at all – you can make objects pop up, and then use these or interact with them to solve problems and save people.
This opens up a tricky sort of balance. If you can make anything appear, then surely every puzzle is easy as pie. Monster in the way? Drop a tank on him. Someone is ill? Hand them some medicine. This is all possible, and you can easily breeze through the game without any trouble whatsoever.
But this is where things get interesting: you can do anything. When you realize this, that there are a huge number of possibilities to each puzzle, suddenly you stop thinking about how easy the game is to beat, and start wondering how you can tackle puzzles in the weirdest ways possible.
The moment when I helped an arsonist beat his addiction by typing “psychiatrist” and placing a man with a jumper and glasses next to him was the moment when a light flicked on in my mind, and I told myself, “let’s have some fun.”
And oh my goodness, the fun you can have. Not only can you conjure up anything you want, you can also add adjectives to things. Add “alive” to a toaster and it will begin to bound about like a maniac. Tell a beggar he is “clever” and suddenly he’ll be able to rush out and seek his fortune with his newfound brainpower. The sheer level of exploration available here is astounding.
Just in case you feel like you’ve tried everything the game has to offer outside of the main quests (which take a dozen hours to complete), there’s also object quests to beat, which give you hints such as “milk something that goes moo.” Place a cow and a bucket, and you’ve got yourself a Starite shard. There are hundreds of these challenges, and they’re glorious.
On the subject of Starites and shards, this is how the game plays out–each level contains smaller side missions that you can complete in seconds, each of which give you shards that build up into full Starites. Then there are larger missions that take a while longer to complete and are a bit more involved. These give you full Starites, and really help towards your total, and unlocking further levels.
Scribblenauts Unlimited is hilarious at times. It’s funny on its own, with great writing woven into the missions that rely on actions and speech bubbles, rather than actual spoken jokes. But the majority of the stuff that has us tickled happened by accident as a result of us wondering what would happen if we put this one thing with another thing. Pro-tip: Do not conjure up an eel while swimming. They are not happy creatures.
But what’s so important about Scribblenauts is just how educational is it, and how well it manages to hide it. The game will occasionally require you to have some prior knowledge about certain topics, jobs or items, and we had to Google elements from the real world to understand what was required of us at points. We imagine for a child playing the game, this would act brilliantly as an informative-yet-silly learning tool.
We’re not finished yet! Apart from the main spectacle, there’s also an objects editor. From there, you can edit or create from scratch your own items, people and machines, give them properties such as whether they are alive or how they react to things, and then give them a word they correspond to. In this way, you can fill in any blanks the game might have, and then share them online for other people to download (and, of course, you can grab other creations yourself). It’s the missing puzzle piece in an already bulging package.
Throw in the ability to change Maxwell’s appearance by conjuring up clothing, plus Steam achievements to collect, and this really is the definitive Scribblenauts package. It’s adorable, mind-blowing at times, and highly recommended for kids and adults alike.