In Scribblenauts, the greatest tool at your disposal is your imagination. This kooky, wondrous series has always strived to expand and improve on its base concept, and Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure endeavors to do so with the full might of DC Comics behind it. Does this superhero-infused adventure take players up, up, and away, or should it stay in the Batcave where it belongs?
If you've played any of the Scribblenauts titles you'll know what to expect here, more or less. For those who haven't, this action/puzzle series grants players a magic notebook which, when a word is written into it, summons that object into the game world. Adjectives modify the objects you summon, and can be piled on ad nauseum, so if you want to summon a "flying, friendly, zombie, vampire, intelligent, invulnerable, super-strong, robot hamburger," go ahead and do it. The story takes place in the DC Universe— our hero, Maxwell, and his sister, Lily, accidentally transported themselves there through the overuse of their magic notebook and globe, respectively. Now Maxwell's doppelganger, the cleverly-named Doppelganger, is running amok with DC's most dangerous villains, and it's up to you to team up with the DC heroes and stop them. The story's pretty basic, and, despite the occasional DC universe in-joke, older players may find the cutscenes tiresome; the use of a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor a la 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold' would have gone a long way to helping anyone over the age of ten enjoy the story.
Once you're in the heart of the game, you'll find that it's a series of large areas filled with smaller puzzles for you to solve. There are hungry citizens who need you to summon food for them, stranded folks whose cars are broken, and supervillains committing dastardly deeds only you can stop. The puzzles themselves are all fast and fun, but the open areas don't really make for compelling gameplay; you'll spend more time than is necessary wandering around looking for someone to help. It's a step down from the more focused level selection of past Scribblenauts. Another issue with these puzzles is they can be surprisingly specific in how they require you to complete them. One mission requires the player to steal Larfleeze's orange lantern to rob him of his greed-fueled powers. We used a tranquilizer gun to put him to sleep, but this counted as a failure and forced us to start over. If you don't complete objectives in precisely the way the game wants you to, you may run into trouble, which is odd for a game that prides itself on letting players use their imaginations.
Quibbles aside, if you want to grab a magic notebook and go wild, Scribblenauts Unmasked has you covered. The addition of the DC pantheon makes for some mind-bogglingly wild situations. Want to summon Batman and make him duke it out against an army of malicious ducks? You can do it, but first: which Batman? Batman: Year One? Batman Beyond? 1970s Batman? There's a ludicrous amount of DC history jammed into this title, and anyone well-versed in the comics will kicking their feet in fanboy/girlish glee over the amount of attention paid to representing as many comic book characters as possible.
Scribblenauts Unmasked's controls are very similar to previous Scribblenauts games, love them or hate them. Maxwell's never been the most agile or easy to control character, and he still isn't. The visuals are bright and all rendered in wonderful Scribblenauts style, giving a childish sense of fun to everything. The audio, however, took a turn for the orchestrated rather than the saccharine-infused beats of the rest of the series, and the score sounds rather generic as a result. Players can also create a variety of new objects, characters, and costumes, but the in-game tools to do so are rather obtuse.
This newest entry in the Scribblenauts franchise may not be the most polished game, but it's an ambitious, imaginative title great for anyone who hungers for a little creative expression in their gaming. Those looking for a controlled, cerebral puzzler, however, may need to think twice about purchasing this superhero-filled adventure.
This review is based on a digital copy of Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure purchased for review.