The Scribblenauts series sparks creativity and hilarity. Seeing how you can solve a situation is just about as engaging as seeing how wacky the solution can be. The developer, 5th Cell, has refined the system over three iterations, so the question is in the direction of the franchise. Thanks to publisher WB Games, the answer is superheroes with Scribblenauts Unmasked.
The demo version at this year's San Diego Comic-Con very closely followed the blueprint of Scribblenauts Unlimited. It could be said that this is the same game but with famous comic book locations instead of generic ones. Once again, you play the role of Maxwell, a kid with a magical notebook that can conjure up any person or object you write down. You use these objects to solve puzzles or help in others' predicaments and get rewarded for your efforts with magic objects called Starites. As before, there is no single "correct" solution to a problem, so experimentation is the key. If you're charged with destroying a building, for example, you can punch it until it crumbles. You can also blow it up with dynamite, strap a rocket to it to send it hurtling through space, or get a giant termite to eat it. Half of the fun is in finding the most absurd way to solve a problem, and in that respect, the game certainly hasn't lost its touch.
The big selling point is the presence of heroes and villains from the DC Universe, officially licensed this time as opposed to fan-made creations. At any point, you can conjure up a character by name, and he or she will appear, with signature traits and super powers in tow. Call up The Flash, for example, and he'll use his speed to solve problems; calling on Beast Boy enables him to turn into any animal type at will. In short, everything stays true to the source material. To help those unfamiliar with the denizens of the universe, the game has a built-in Batcomputer to serve as a quick reference.
Possibly the most impressive thing about the title is the breadth of characters. The representatives at the booth state that the game has over 2,000 official DC characters, and while that number might seem inflated, especially when you factor in DC characters from various timelines, it is believable when you realize how deep the development team has dug. You can expect the usual suspects like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman in old and "New 52" flavors, and guys who have been more prominent lately, like Deathstroke and Green Arrow, are also in. Big teams like the Teen Titans are here, but so are guys like the Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad. The Brotherhood of Evil is present, as are Plastic Man, Superdog and Wildebeest. Booster Gold, Copperhead, Red Tornado and Zatanna also come along for the ride. There are even more characters tucked away, but no one has been able to guess someone who isn't in the game — yet. Since the title is aimed at a younger set, only the proper DC universe is recognized, so those looking for official versions of John Constantine, Sandman, the Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will be disappointed. However, with the game already coming to the PC and with Steam Workshop support almost guaranteed at this point, anything is possible.
The advancement of the franchise and the inclusion of DC Universe characters might make the puzzles take a backseat to mayhem. On the show floor, we witnessed players ignoring every puzzle in the game in favor of on-screen battles. Having Martian Manhunter fight Brain was fine, but suddenly players were throwing in Aquaman, Batman, Deathstroke, Joker, Monsieur Mallah, Riddler, Superman and a few others into what shortly became a battle royale with Maxwell standing in the middle. It made for a surreal, humorous scene. As more players took turns, they simply reset the scene to put in their own characters or added more participants to the melee. At the very least, this will be the reason for comic book fans to pick up the title.
Scribblenauts Unmasked is due to hit stores this September. We hope to have more coverage of the title in the coming months and access to a DC Wiki in hopes of finding out how deep into the DC vault the developers have gone.
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