There are few things that still get me excited in my rapidly ascending old age, and there is a real soft spot in my innards for video games that capture a player's sense of imagination. As far as creative nuggets go, Scribblenauts is a shining example.
Appearing back in 2009 on the Nintendo DS, Scribblenauts was a cute platformer with a difference. It wasn't so much a game as it was an endless sandbox, where players could unleash their imaginations. Not only could they decide how to complete missions, but they could even dictate their own cast of characters and props with which to do so.
At any point in the game, players can open up a handy dandy notebook and type in whatever their hearts desire. Eight times out of ten, it'll appear on screen in amusing cartoon form as an object for you to interact with.
Want to battle a cyclops while riding a unicorn? You got it. Or perhaps summon forth an army of beavers, a pine tree, and a lumberjack and watch the madness unfold. Maybe you'll meet a character in the game that asks for a new best friend? No problem, you can make a friendly sasquatch appear and they'll skip away merrily.
Giant octopi, evil wizards, velociraptors, windmills, crash helmets, ray-guns... it's staggering how many words are recognisable in the game's database. Often half the fun is trying to find one that doesn't spring forth. The only limitations are mature-themed and copyrighted words (with the exception of two Nintendo franchises, Mario and Zelda - we'll let you try some keywords out for yourselves to discover what they might be.) Otherwise Unlimited pretty much lives up to its name.
A lot of people look at the cutesy, cartoonish nature and assume that Scribblenauts isn't very deep in the storyline department. But it turns out that the main character, Maxwell, is collecting as many 'starites' as his little red-rooster hat can hold in order to reverse a curse that is turning his sister to stone. It's pretty deep stuff for such a child-like charmer.
Despite the morbid jeopardy of his sibling, the gameplay in Scribblenauts is broken down into small, light-hearted, and entertaining mini-puzzles. Objectives might be as varied as 'collect a starite at the top of a tree' or 'help the policeman catch a thief'. But it's the way in which you go about completing these tasks that makes every experience memorable. The only limitation is your imagination.
While the single-joint animation style of Scribblenauts is crude, the cute "cutout" pixel visuals have retained their childish and highly effective charm. The game looks sharper and brighter than ever on the HD screen.
The only downside is you'll spend most of the experience looking at the small Gamepad in your lap, typing away furiously. Thankfully, all of the action appears in both places, so you won't need to constantly look up and down like some sort of demented meerkat. Speaking of which, you can type 'meerkat' in the game for a furry companion.
When coupled with the handy Gamepad controller, Scribblenauts Unlimited is an ideal ?t for Nintendo's new console. Everything about Scribblenauts screams fun and creativity - a vibe that the Wii U carries off extremely well.
There are unlimited lives, so there is never any trepidation when attempting something unique or venturing into the unusual. And because of the infinite combinations, it is guaranteed that different people will approach each puzzle in completely different ways.
For example you might need to remove a dog from in front of a gate so that you can pass by. You could do the obvious; like spawn a cat for it to chase, or a big steak for it to go eat. But why not let loose a little? You could just suck him into a supernova. Nice. Or maybe see how he fares against an angry gorilla?
There are literally hours and hours of hand-cramping levels, where you will experiment with mad combos. Chances are you'll repeat a fair few too, as every level gives you a score based on how you went about completing it and most have some room for improvement.
It's important to note that Scribblenauts Unlimited is not just a port of the original game in high-definition packaging. The most obvious difference from the original handheld version is the sheer sense of scale. Levels are massive here and feature a wider variety of goals. Now you can wander an entire city and engage with side characters to take on additional quests, if you want.
Unlimited also includes an impressive customisation section where imaginative types can mash up their own crazy creations via an intuitive editing screen. You might want to make an elephant with a moustache and wheels for hind legs (a perfect distraction); or a car made entirely out of cheese (great for getaways); or perhaps a cat bazooka (er... for those, feline-blasting emergencies). All of these can be shared via an online community where everyone can download your genius... or twisted mistakes of nature.
Finally, this Wii U version also introduces a two-player co-op experience to the franchise, where a friend can pick up a Wii-mote and play as a sidekick. They can take control of any character that the first player spawns and interact with the scene. It's not a full multiplayer experience as such, as the sidekick is always dependent on the main player. But Scribblenauts even unintentionally doubles as a great party game, where groups of friends can gather around the TV and yell out suggestions to see what eventuates. If you own a brand spanking new Wii U, buy this game and give your imagination a workout.
Platform: Wii U