I had high hopes for Scribblenauts Unmasked. From the original DS title, the Scribblenauts formula struck a chord with me. A puzzle game at its core, the original Scribblenauts let you imagine your own solutions instead of relying on the environment or other game elements. In a move that few other titles are able to make, the franchise even transitioned successfully to other platforms with Scribblenauts Unlimited. When I first loaded up the latter title on my PC, I was surprised at how much larger and more detailed the worlds had become. Add in the epic characters and locales from the DC Universe, and I was sure Scribblenauts Unmasked would keep the streak going, perhaps even topping its predecessor. But with superpowers come super responsibilities, and Unmasked doesn’t quite clear the bar set by earlier games.
An in-game Batcomputer encyclopedia provides background information on everyone from the Green Lantern Corps to the Teen Titans, with wiki-style contextual links allowing you to quickly access related information. This isn’t purely fan service for DC diehards; it often offers hints about a villain’s biggest weaknesses or most threatening enemy, allowing you to narrow down which objects or heroes to conjure from your notebook. The selection of heroes is equally impressive; writing “Batman” in your notebook provides you with six pages of different options to choose from. Whether you prefer Batman as he first appeared in 1939 or the Batman of Arkham, Scribblenauts Unmasked has your bases covered. It’s not just the big guys, either; there’s a treasure trove of minor and obscure characters to scroll through as well. A little later in the game, you can even craft your own superheroes with unique costumes and traits. All told, there are a few thousand iconic DC heroes and objects at your fingertips.
This is despite the fact that the developers have taken a number of positive steps to encourage and reward creativity. You can no longer simply summon an “Angry Giant Flying Hipster Dinosaur” to deal with all of your problems; repeatedly using the same words in your notebook nets you fewer points. Similarly, using easy-mode adjectives like “invincible” for yourself or “dead” for your enemies is penalized. On the other hand, accepting additional challenges from Mr. Mxyzptlk like only using objects that start with “A” or not using any adjectives to complete a level will reward you with double the points. Your points are used to unlock new areas, costumes, and additional options for your custom heroes.
The graphical style hasn’t changed much since Unlimited, with comic book-style cutscenes being one major addition. With that said, the game still looks good in that cutesy, cartoony way that is completely fitting of the Scribblenauts franchise and its family-friendly nature. Even the most fearsome DC villains look kind of adorable when drawn in the game’s characteristic style. The music, while somewhat darker than previous games, is equally fitting, and the sound effects are just as fun and quirky as the objects that produce them.