Scribblenauts Unmasked:  A DC Comics Adventure

Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

Developed by 5th Cell | Published by Warner Bros Interactive | Platforms: Wii U, 3DS, PC

Rating: 8.5/10

As a gaming advocate it is my job to point out that games can have a variety of positive effects on gamers, including the development of cognitive skills. I wholeheartedly believe that this is true, particularly for young gamers.

However, it has been a long time since I was young enough to feel the developmental effects of such games. I clearly remember games like Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Pyjama Sam teaching me invaluable skills in areas such as geography, maths, writing and critical thinking. Now on the cusp of finishing my postgraduate studies, I was sure that the thrill of learning from games was well and truly behind me. That was until I started playing Scribblenauts, however.

Scribblenauts is a puzzle series in which Maxwell and his sister Lily are able to interact with the world around them using a magical notebook. This allows Maxwell to add adjectives to the objects and people around him, as well as conjuring up items and characters. 5th Cell uses this mechanic in a variety of ingenious puzzles and situations that challenge gamers to think outside of the square and to expand their vocabulary.

It’s a concept you would expect to involve a steep learning curve. However, the easy puzzles feel as natural as breathing, making it seem as though our minds are specifically designed for this kind of problem-solving. For example, if Max is walking along a path and encounters a boulder blocking his progress, you simply click on the boulder and add the adjective “floating” to make it a floating boulder.

The concept is easy to engage with, but more complicated challenges force players to think creatively in order to come up with solutions. As well as encouraging critical thinking, these games expand players’ vocabularies – you are only allowed to use a word once in any particular area or you suffer a penalty.

The latest game in the series has now been released: Scribblenauts Unmasked. This game combines Scribblenauts’ patented gameplay with the DC comic universe in what is perhaps the most amazing licensing deal since Star Wars Lego. In this latest adventure, Maxwell and Lily transport themselves into the world of the DC comic books to find out who the greatest hero is. But their arrival also precipitates the arrival of Starites, which is what Maxwell uses to power his magical notebook. The villains of the DC universe try to use the Starites for their own nefarious ends, so Maxwell and Lily must team up with the heroes to put a stop to their evil deeds.

This new concept does not diminish the gameplay at all, but rather affords it a fun new way in which to approach problems: you now look through the superhero lens! For example, one mission sees you trying to protect Superman as he battles a Lex Luthor with Kryptonian powers. The problem here is that Lex and Superman are now both vulnerable to the same substance: Kryptonite. As such, you must first conjure up a protective lead suit for Superman before conjuring up some Kryptonite to defeat Lex.

The game includes a seemingly infinite number of objects, characters and adjective variations, as well as a variety of DC locations such as Gotham City, Metropolis and Oa. 5th Cell brags that the game has over 2000 characters and that they have included almost every character from the DC universe, from stars such as Batman and Superman to the most obscure villains, heroes and nobodies imaginable – including oddities such as Matter-Eater Lad.

While we are now perhaps too old to learn writing and maths skills from Pyjama Sam, there is no limit to the alternative ways in which we can challenge ourselves to think, and Scribblenauts Unmasked will help you to develop such critical thinking skills no matter your age or intelligence. On top of this, Scribblenauts Unmasked offers you the opportunity to engage with some ridiculously fun and productive gameplay in what is perhaps the most awesome universe ever constructed.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2013.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 6th October 2013 by Baz Macdonald.