Friday, May 2, 2014

Scribblenauts Unmasked

The nice thing about the Scribblenauts series is you can go into it fully knowing what to expect if you've played any of the games before.  You play a child blessed with a magic notebook that lets him summon anything he can write down, and you use it (typically) to gather stars from maps and beat challenges.

However, when you incorporate the DC Universe into it, things get a bit crazy.

Scribblenauts Unmasked is one massive love letter to the DC Comics universe.  Any character you can imagine can show up, as evidenced by the fact that up above we have both Egg-Fu and Dex-Starr the Red Lantern cat.

The story line is pretty simple, the main character Maxwell (and his little sister who has a globe that can send them anywhere) wind up in Gotham City after they "combine their powers" to summon it, and soon both are trying to figure out a way back home.  Meanwhile, you get to help the heroes of the DC Universe deal with their normal every day chores, such as racing the Flash, helping Aquaman fight undersea evil, or comforting a young Bruce Wayne after his parents get shot and killed.

This is a real thing.

The game lets you craft any tool you want (but you gain more points with the more variety you show on any stage, spamming "Superman" to summon him eventually makes the game give up on rewarding you), so of course I immediately equip my character with the two essential things any superhero should have: a jet pack and a gun that shoots ice.

It also starts out pretty dark, since immediately upon arriving in Gotham City, there were three missions I had to take care of:

1)  Help Batman fight Deadshot, a deadly assassin (and one of my favorite DC characters).

2)  Escort Victor Zsasz to his ride to Arkham, and eventually fighting him when he breaks free.

3)  Who cares about the third thing?  The game has you escorting Victor Zsasz.  THIS GUY.

See all those tick marks on his skin?  That's someone he killed.  He keeps score by marking his own body.

And you're a child.  Tasked with escorting him.  On your own.  You even have to provide your own rope to lead him with.

It's a wonder Commissioner Gordon still has his job.

Oh, and I also had to fight Swamp Thing in the sewers of Gotham, but to be fair, I kinda punched him first while I was dealing with Scarecrow and didn't aim my blow very well.

Speaking of game play...well, if you've played other games in the series, you know that controls tend to take back seat to seeing how creative you can be.  Well, instead of tapping backgrounds to show the character where you want him, you can actually control Maxwell this time, so being able to jet pack up into the air and blast an evil version of Superman in the face is all well and good, but dodging gets rather tricky when he brushes my ice blast off his chest and then lasers me with his eyes.

Yeah, I'm kinda hosed here.

The game can also quickly turn into a confusing jumble of flailing characters who wail on each other in an uncontrollable melee, which is how I wound up punching a giant man made of moss in what I can only assume his the plant equivalent of his groin by accident.  Keeping track of health bars of heroes, trying to equip them with random items to help them (because I always thought the Flash needed a baseball bat) and then getting frustrated when you drag the item to them just to have them fling it into the sky like it was covered in slugs while a two-bit villain like Abra Kadabra socks them in the jaw.  Or you're being chased by Doomsday and struggling to remember if Microwavabelle isn't too obscure for the game to remember (spoiler alert, she isn't, and considering I had to struggle to remember who she was, that says something).

If you want a fun time going "oh, hey, I remember that character!" or testing the game's rather limitless database of characters, then pick up the game, by all means.  After all, why wouldn't you want a game that lets you summon an army of various Batmans?

However, if you're looking for clean controls or something a bit more mature (you know, more mature than a serial killer who cuts his own flesh to keep score), then I recommend looking elsewhere.

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