Scribblenauts: Unmasked

ScribblenautsUnmaskedScribblenauts: Unmasked

Rated PG

On 3DS, Wii U, and PC

This may not come as much of a surprise but I have an imagination probably best described as overactive. So a game like Scribblenauts is right up my alley. A game where you solve puzzles by using the (almost) boundless limits of your creativity? I’m in. Throw in a whole bunch of DC superheros and I’ll be your best friend forever. And that’s what Scribblenauts: Unmasked is – a really fun game that seems tailor made for me. And it is a lot of fun. But there are some aspects that just don’t work for me.

Scribblenauts: Unmasked is the fifth game in the Scribblenauts series. You play Maxwell, a young boy who can create anything he can imagine by drawing it in his magic notebook. Along with his sister, Lily, Maxwell finds himself trapped in the world of DC Comics. He must enlist the help of Batman and the rest of the Justice League to defeat the evil Doppleganger and gather up all the pieces of Starite so they can return home. In the process, the player will explore iconic DC locations such as Gotham City, Arkham Asylum and Oa. And fight well-known villains such as The Joker, Lex Luthor and Sinestro.

From a DC Comics fan perspective, this game is thorough. I would spend ages thinking of every obscure DC hero I could think of to write into the notebook and bring to life. If I can find my favourite obscure DC character then I’m going to be happy. For those playing along at home, my favourite obscure character is Anima and yes, she is in the game. While I was able to stump the game a couple of times (no love for Half-LIfe from Superboy and the Ravers), this was the exception rather than the rule. Not to worry though – if you’re coming into this game with virtually no comic book knowledge, don’t be alarmed. Everything you need to know about superheroes to win the game is shared with you in the game itself. You’re not going to be penalised for not knowing who Shade: The Changing Man is (though you really should because he’s awesome).

From a game play point of view, this game is a lot of fun. Riding on the back of a giant magnetic fire-breathing mongoose is an experience I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t find in any other game. Not having played the previous installments, I’m not sure if the following criticism is specific to this game or to the series in general – I found the game too short. I completed the whole game in about 3 days of infrequent playing. There seems to be little incentive to come up with new solutions to recurring obstacles. And I found the boss challenges to be too easily solved. Some more complexity to these challenges would have been appreciated. On the other hand, this level of lateral thinking is probably set just about right for a 7 year old, which is closer to the target audience than this old man.

The aspect I like most about Scribblenauts: Unmasked is its focus on thinking around a problem. The game encourages the player to think creatively about problem solving and not just hitting the problem until it goes away. Sure, there is some of that here, but if I’m paying for a game featuring Batman, I want Batman to hit something. But other problems aren’t so easily solved. That’s a great concept to push because in the real world few problems are solved with your fists. Like the problem of sin. Sin wasn’t dealt with by Jesus coming to earth and punching it into submission. The problem of sin could only be solved by God himself coming into this world and dying in our place. Not only was this a creative solution, it was the only solution. And as people who follow Jesus, we’re called not to violence but to love. In practice, that means flexing our creative muscles to think how we can solve a problem in a loving way and not with a roundhouse kick to the face. Any game that encourages us to think creatively about problems is a game worth investigating.

I had fun playing Scribblenauts: Unmasked. While I’ve finished it, I’ll probably play it some more. And I’ll have to impose some personal challenges to make it harder (the game does throw in some creative obstacles via Mr Mxyzptlk but these end up being more frustrating than challenging). Well worth checking out, especially if you’ve ever wanted to see a pink Superman fighting a glowing flying duck.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.
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