Video games often get a bad rap. Parents can demonise them as the scourge of education, the ultimate in distraction, and a waste of time and money. The media doesn’t help with its panic of the month over games like Fortnite. But hold up, what we have here are two video games that actively encourage not just creativity but also thinking and use of vocabulary.
Yes, Scribblenauts is a game that makes words your superpower – and thanks to a huge amount of content, your creativity is only limited by what your imagination. This is the first time either of the two titles on offer here have made it to a PlayStation format, and Scribblenauts Mega Pack offers both full games for a reduced price.
You play as Maxwell, who rocks a magic notebook where whatever you write down – be they names or adjectives – comes to life, either as objects or to change the existing environment. Need to get up somewhere high? Well, you could go literal and create a ladder, but how much more fun would it be to give yourself pair of wings and fly? That’s exactly what you can do and shows how you can approach each situation in various ways.
In Scribblenauts Unlimited, you work to crack challenges of different sorts – each NPC you meet will probably have a request, and it’s up to you and your magic notebook to find a solution. The control method switches when you want to get scribbling, and a simple word entry dial pops up. In practice, it's slightly laborious to spell out each word letter by letter. Handily, once your letters create a useable word, a list of options appears so you can scroll through and select what you fancy, which saves a bit of time.
Unlimited brings lots of NPCs to the bright and colourful party – some with more complex and challenging requirements than others. There are often multiple ways in which to crack each scenario, and the creative trial and error approach can see you through most situations. The gameplay actually lends itself to being tackled in a team, so if you have pals with you, the collective hive mind approach can be useful as people shout out ideas to try.
Completing tasks will earn you ‘Starites’ and these will allow you to unlock and access levels, costumes, and other fun things. There's a lot of content to work through (and it can feel like work occasionally as you get vexed with a character who just doesn’t seem to want to accept the sort of solution you’re trying) and the initial game will take many hours to complete. What is perhaps most impressive is the sheer size of the vocabulary; you can really try out some imaginative and chaotic solutions.
So far so good, but if Unlimited is a fairly vanilla world to explore, the masterstroke of this pack is to include the Unmasked superhero flavoured follow up. It's licensed with hundreds of DC characters -- not just Superman and his Justice League pals, but the expanded universe of Supergirl, Superboy, and their Superdog (Krypto), a host of Batman variants, and a range of super-villains too. Unmasked really rewards nerdy knowledge of the DC universe and the more action driven plot actually depends on you knowing about a range of heroes and their super strengths or what might take them out. This could prove a little frustrating for those who aren’t comic book fans, but it rewards those who have spent time reading the adventures of Batman and co.
There are so many characters packed in and some are so obscure that Scibblenauts Unmasked is an absolute dream for those DC fans who never thought they’d see very little known characters, such as ‘Bat-Mite’ - an imp from the fifth dimension who's a big Batman fanboy that can distort reality, or the brilliantly named ‘Arm-Fall-Off Boy’, whose rubbish, self-explanatory superpower got him kicked out of the Legion of Superheroes.
Fair play to Warner Bros for really pushing the licence of pretty much every DC character we could think of (and lots we hadn’t come across) – it really makes Unmasked something of a wonderful homage to the DC Universe. There is much fun to be had in racing round Gotham city sitting on the shoulders of The Flash whilst trying to thwart The Joker’s latest plan. In Unmasked, you collect reputation points rather than Starites, and the unlocks are cooler, including being able to create your own hero. There is joy in messing about, mixing and matching the body parts and powers of various heroes – such as creating a new member of the Green Lantern Corps wearing an alternate Batmask and Shazam’s cape - or a more weird and wonderful variant.
The Mega Pack also brings bonus levels to the party, including one featuring members of the Suicide Squad so if you’ve ever wanted to get to hang out with Harley Quinn or Killer Croc – now is your chance.
Scribblenauts Mega Pack might not conform easily to any gaming genre, but for those with imagination or a love of the DC Universe, this bundle offers hours of fun puzzle solving and platforming. A worthy addition to any gaming library – and a positive learning experience that is actually more fun than chore.