E3 2012 Preview: Scribblenauts Unlimited

June 18, 2012

Scribblenauts Unlimited is a natural fit for the Wii U. After all, the Wii U’s gamepad essentially transforms your television into a larger version of the DS, so bringing across a title that used the handheld’s touchscreen to great effect makes sense. However, Scribblenauts Unlimited aims to provide a true sequel to Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts with a variety of new features, while keeping the same creativity we’ve come to know and love from the past games.

The look of the game, for example, is classic Scribblenauts but with the resolution increased to HD-quality. The simplistic but cute art looks amazing on the big-screen, and with the larger screen size also comes the opportunity to expand Maxwell’s world a lot more, with a larger playing field and levels. It’s an obvious change that comes with bringing a series over from the portable realm to a home console, but it’s still worth pointing out that Scribblenauts Unlimited has not only kept its trademark personality, but made it brighter and sharper.

Any fan of Scribblenauts will know that the games are based around creation – allowing Maxwell to type in any object he desires and have it appear in the game, through the use of a sophisticated in-game dictionary. Super Scribblenauts brought a fundamental change to the gameplay of the series with the inclusion of creating objects with adjectives – now Scribblenauts Unlimited allows you to apply adjectives to certain characters and objects that already exist in the game world. For example, an NPC may offer you a quest that requires you make them happy. If you’re so inclined, you can just apply a ‘happy’ adjective to the character and collect your starite, although this is a very basic example.

The other really big addition is a new ‘object creation’ tool, that allows you to add your own objects to the in-game dictionary. Frustrated by the lack of an appropriate object for the words ‘Emperor Penguintine’? Well, now you can use the in-game editor to create your own visualisation of that particular monstrosity, either from scratch or by modifying existing objects. 5th Cell promise that you’ll then be able to share these objects online with friends, although the method through which this will be done isn’t quite locked down yet. If it could be a kind of automatic process, where any object you create is uploaded to some central online database, this could be an amazing feature. The developers are never going to be able to create objects for every possible thing gamers could write down in the magic notepad, so why not hand that over to the community and get everyone working on it together? There could potentially be copyright problems with this approach, though, and the possibility of people creating naughty objects, but it’s a feature that I’ll be watching with great interest as it develops.

Other big additions include a story mode, which replaces the vague collection of quests and puzzles from the DS games with a fully-fleshed out tale which gives us a backstory on Maxwell and his family, focusing on how he was gifted with the god-like reality-warping powers of his magic notepad. The game will feature 41 levels with over 50 starites to collect, although this time they are assembled with ‘starite shards’ (of which there are over 500). So far, over 20 hours of gameplay are projected for the single player experience. Apart from the aforementioned social aspect, the game will also support multiplayer via additional Wii Remotes.

The short time I had with Scribblenauts Unlimited basically showed off a higher-definition version of the same game I’ve loved in its last few incarnations. However, it’s the features that weren’t present on the show floor which I’m most excited for – namely the social and multiplayer aspects, as well as how 5th Cell will manage to get a story mode working in a game where players can and will abuse their omnipotent powers to cheat at any opportunity. Scribblenauts Unlimited is currently projected to be released alongside the Wii U in Q4 2012.