It’s kind of crazy when you get to see a small game release turn into a big, unexpectedly popular franchise. But that’s exactly what happened with 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts, which first began as a release for the Nintendo DS and has since become a phenomenal hit for the folks at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Following the release of the game on mobile and a Nintendo DS sequel, it’s time for the series to step up to game consoles, and what better platform than the Nintendo Wii U?
Scribblenauts Unlimited is set to debut during the system’s launch later this year and will once again introduce Maxwell, an imaginative kid who is able to summon one of thousands of particular items using a word creation screen. Here users can pick from an infinite number of possible items to summon and it’ll appear on the screen, and let you drag it over to the character that needs to use it.
In the demo for Unlimited, a WB rep showed us how this system will work with the Wii U. It’s quite similar to previous games, as you’ll set off on a journey in which you’ll need to help others along the way, as part of Maxwell’s attempt to learn more about his mysterious past. To do this, you need to assign the right item to the right person.
For instance, one professor was looking for some canine companionship, so, with that, we went to the sub-menu, typed in “DOG” (you can also type in specific dog types, like “POODLE”) and a dog appeared on the screen. Now, you can either drag it over to the party that wants it or, in some cases, let it wander on its own until it finds them. Either way, once they combine, you can move on to the next objective, like giving a lumberjack an axe so he can cut down a tree that’s standing in the way, or a scout needing a gun to shoot at a bullseye so he can earn a badge.
Aside from being able to use the Wii U touch screen to input letters that allow the results to appear on the game screen, you can also customize your answers for even more unpredictable results. This includes adding an adjective to describe your object, such as “HAPPY DOG”, which in turn delivers a result that’s more personalized than just the object by itself. We tried this on a few objects, and it turned out to have unpredictable results on each stage – sometimes humorous, and sometimes effective. This will keep you coming back for more, that’s for sure. Ever see a killer pizza do its worst? (Relax, it’s a game for all ages, so no one actually gets eaten.)
The challenges you’ll come across on Maxwell’s quest are pretty much endless, with various characters needing things and hours worth of exploration to do, including coming up with objects you’d never even think of. You can even summon objects to interact with previous objects, leading to ridiculous situations that only you can resolve – since you created them, anyway.
In addition to the single player campaign, which is quite engaging and in some cases hilarious, you can also play along with a friend in two-player co-op, and while there are times the two of you might not be on the same page, it’s interesting to see what kind of trouble you can conjure up by working side by side. Who knows, you might even come up with a dream combination of items that changes the shape of the game as you know it.
Even though Scribblenauts Unlimited doesn’t quite use the potential of the Wii U in terms of graphics, it’s still a pleasant little distraction. Using hand-drawn visuals that appear quite sharply on the Wii U screen (but not to the point of distraction), the team at 5th Cell have done an outstanding job creating a new world for the device, one filled with likable characters and funny situations, including trying to deal with a gorilla without giving him a banana. (Ever wonder what he’d do with a whale?) The switch between TV and back to the main screen seems just about right, and though there’s no heavy interaction between the two, the set-up in general is friendly to all ages. If you’re looking for a good creative tool to bring out the best in the Wii U, this could very well be it.
Scribblenauts Unlimited continues the fun trend of item creating and quest completing as previous games, while adding new touch-screen controls and co-op support to keep things fresh. It should easily spell out “winner” (and not “WEINER”) when the game arrives later this year.