Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure – 3DS
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: 5th Cell
Release Date: Sep 24, 2013
Genre: Puzzle, Action
Reviewed by Jason Flick
Review Score: 4 of 5
Imagination is a very powerful thing and is the instrument of creativity in the widely popular Scribblenauts franchise over the last four years. I’ve barely dabbled with the series though I did spend a little bit of time with Scribblenauts Unlimited on the Wii U and found it pretty enjoyable for the most part. It wasn’t until I learned about 5th Cell’s newest entry, Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure, for the Nintendo 3DS that I really found a genuine interest into the series.
I’ve always loved comic books and while I have no ironclad loyalty between the two comic giants, the DC universe holds most of my all-time favorite superheroes and super villains. I must say that from a comic book standpoint 5th Cell did an insanely detailed job of incorporating some of the most iconic locations and characters (and the not-so iconic characters) into Scribblenauts Unmasked.
The story once again follows Maxwell, the boy with a big imagination and a magical notepad that can create anything he or rather you can think of. Maxwell and his twin sister Lili, who has a magic globe of teleportation, get transported to Gotham after a strange accident. Once there they learn that Maxwell’s evil twin Doppelganger is there and has joined with the Joker to cause trouble. It’s not long before you’ll be navigating Maxwell through the visages of Metropolis, The Fortress of Solitude, the Green Lantern base on Oa, Themyscira, The Watchtower and even Arkham Asylum to name a few, as you try and recover the powerful Starites before they fall into the wrong hands.
Beyond the point of the added DC universe, Scribblenauts functions exactly like its predecessors. For those interested in playing a Scribblenauts title for the first time I’ll cover the basics. Each location such as the starting area of Gotham City has a randomized number of citizens and DC characters that need help in some form or another as well as a main story mission. It’s your job to aid them by writing nouns to create what they need or use adjectives to alter the state of an object or person. The possibilities are nearly endless though there are a few checks in place that keep the game from being too easy. If you use the same adjective/nouns such as flying, gun or doused too often in the same location then you receive less reputation points for it. As you supposed to be a superhero in this adventure is also definitely unwise to use certain words like saying anything with Nuclear before it to solve a problem. It’s really hard to help citizens if everything is dead or burnt to a crisp.
Those reputation points can be used to unlock a lot of the main locations like Wayne Manor. There are also three kinds of reputation points: Gotham, Metropolis and Lantern to collect and certain locations and origin stories can only be unlocked by the correct type. The same goes for the unlockable costumes that Maxwell can wear. These outfits also give Maxwell abilities like being able to fly or have access to certain attacks that the original hero has like throwing fireballs. There are a few costumes however that require players to go out and use the StreetPass feature with other 3DS Scribblenauts Unmasked players to unlock them one at a time. So players who want the most out of their game or to progress the story will have to revisit locations multiple times to rack up the required points.
Collecting the Starites and stopping Doppelganger is the main focus of the game, which is usually pretty straightforward as it just takes using the D-pad to look around your immediate environment to find the location marked with a blue star. Getting there is completely up to the player as you could take the elevators or fly there using powers or even use vehicles depending on the location. Once there, the missions can be sort of a letdown. I expected that I would get to directly take on classic villains from the DC universe but that is rarely the case as you find yourself quickly becoming a sidekick as you create objects to aid in the fight. I mean that’s kind of cool from a comic standpoint, but I would have enjoyed fighting them myself a lot more.
Scribblenauts Unmasked, like its predecessors, suffers from its own design as I found out as well when it came to solving the many puzzles and events. For starters there were times when an extremely viable solution to a problem would fail like making an “angry” person that was attacking me turn into a “happy” person by altering the adjective. I’m sure the developers want you to be a little more creative than that though. That doesn’t stop you though from creating some completely outlandish creations though that defy reason, much like the cat-throwing tree that I encountered. Seriously! That’s not funny meow. Okay maybe it is just a little.
Scribblenauts Unmasked is a DC themed game right to its core, so the cartoonish nature of this side-scrolling adventure series fits perfectly with the comic aspect. The most iconic worlds in DC history have been recreated in classic Scribblenauts style and they look fantastic. My first look at Gotham City complete with the Gotham City Bank and Police Department in the foreground as well as Wayne Tower and the infamous Monarch Theater in the background was enough to leave a Joker gas induced smile on my face. The level of intricate detail isn’t just found in Gotham but throughout the likes of Metropolis and Oa.
I also give mad props to 5th Cell in recreating over 2,000 DC characters for this game and presenting them in the signature Scribblenauts style along with nearly every weapon, vehicle, and outfit piece from DC’s expansive library. The only issues that I have with the game graphically are that some items are so small once spawned that it was really hard to interact with them, especially around groups of people on my regular 3DS. The other issue is that this game doesn’t make use of the 3D feature at all outside of the title screen.
Scribblenauts Unmasked not only features a great visual style but offers some amazing music. This is particularly important as there is no voice work at all in Scribblenauts Unmasked. Everything story related is done in speech bubbles and narration boxes. There are sound effects such as when you’re in combat or taking damage and other cues like when the game notifies you that your help is needed elsewhere. The score though is easily my favorite thing about Scribblenauts Unmasked outside of the sheer amount of DC content. Everything from the fast paced music heard in Central City to the brooding tone of Gotham is perfect for each location and fits this super-powered experience. Tracy W. Bush really did an excellent job with the music.
Scribblenauts Unmasked has an amazing amount of content and ever-changing puzzles to solve as you return to your favorite DC locations. As an added challenge you’ll be visited by Mr. Mxyzptlk periodically in each location where he will reward you with 2x experience if you can complete all the puzzles and events while meeting criteria like not creating weapons or only creating objects or adjectives that start with the letter D. It’s actually more challenging than it sounds at first and can make some objectives nearly impossible to complete. There is one feature missing from the 3DS version of Scribblenauts Unmasked that I sadly would have liked to try and that is the Hero Creator which is exclusive to the Wii U and PC versions, which is a real bummer.
Despite its flaws and missing features Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure for the 3DS is not only a really enjoyable experience but an excellent addition to the Scribblenauts franchise. I would advise that if you really want to check out the Hero Creator to check out either the equally priced PC version or the more expensive and graphically enhanced Wii U version. But no matter which version you go with Scribblenauts Unmasked is a fun and challenging game for current fans of the series and for comic book fans alike and should not be missed.