Review | 1/8/2013 at 11:23 PM

Scribblenauts Unlimited Co-Op Review

Let your inner child go crazy!

Late last year, the Wii U had arrived in full force, bringing a wide variety of games to longtime Nintendo fans or newcomers to initiate them into their next generation console. I am one of the few Co-Optimus staff members to dive headfirst into the launch lineup, so to test the co-op capabilities of the Wii U first hand, I chose Scribblenauts Unlimited as my first co-op adventure. Being an immensely popular series in Nintendo’s legendary arsenal of games, it’s no wonder that Unlimited earned its place as a solid Wii U launch title.

I’ve played every Scribblenauts title to date, from Nintendo DS to iOS, and I can safely say that Scribblenauts Unlimited is definitely the very best game of the series thus far. Developer 5th Cell has once again brought forth another brilliant title worthy of a franchise that started as a humble handheld title. Drawing me in right off the bat, the HD graphics of Unlimited blew me away and showcased what the Wii U hardware was really capable of. While the game actually features a story never seen before, it isn’t what this game is truly about: creating outrageously fantastic things from your imagination. Using the Wii U GamePad, players control Maxwell and use the touchscreen/stylus to access a number of handy features added into this sequel.

First, the magic Notepad, the source of Maxwell’s Scribblenaut powers and your one-way ticket to imagination overload, allows you to create practically anything you want. Ever dreamt up a piece of giant zombie bacon with wings? That’s just the start of the ridiculous things you can come up with. This is the staple component to any Scribblenauts game, with Unlimited adding new words and adjectives to the already enormous amount provided in games past. In addition, Nintendo gave 5th Cell permission to add in some of their top video game franchises, such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, into Unlimited. It’s more than just Nintendo nostalgia talking when I say that giving Maxwell the Master Sword to wield, all while riding a Yoshi and powered up with a Starman makes anything that much more enjoyable. Other additions that fine tuned the gameplay are: the Magic Backpack that holds anything you’ve created inside it for easy spawning access, a “fast travel” system to access any unlocked area instantaneously, and Starite Vision, which allows you to see where all Starite and Starite Shards are located within a level. 5th Cell knew exactly how to save player time when it came to traversing and accessing their surprisingly broad game, previously being a quite linear experience in past titles.

Finally, the most worthwhile addition made to Unlimited comes in the form of the Object Creator feature. With it, players can create anything they want to make and add practically any sort of configuration to their objects that they wish. Even with the vast amounts of these objects and beings players are able to spawn throughout the game, having the ability to mold and shape anything imaginable pushes the boundaries of creation freedom within Unlimited to new heights. For example: I had the opportunity to create Billy the Robot, Co-Optimus’ official mascot, by taking the base of a robot, adding some red coloration, yellow eyes, nerdy behaviors, and putting a black video game controller in his hand. Now, I’ve made my own object that can be shared via my account online. The Object Editor store is also a great tie-in feature to this mode that allows anyone in the world have access to my personal creations once placed in my storefront.

My own version of Billy can be found on my online Scribblenauts Unlimited storefront now!

With all the great features Unlimited has that gamers have come to look forward to in a Scribblenauts sequel, there’s one major aspect we’ve been practically left out to dry on. The reason you all are reading this review is because you want to know how the co-op component of the game works, right? The thing is: it would have almost been better to not include the co-op element in this game at all.

Unlimited completely lacks the co-op play most Scribblenauts fans have probably dreamt about since this game series had first begun: giving multiple people the opportunity to create things at the same time. Think about it: what could be better for a Scribblenauts multiplayer mode than for more than one player to be allowed to create things? Instead, what Nintendo gave co-op players in Unlimited was the very disappointing “Sidekick Mode” feature that doesn’t achieve this wish.

After describing this mode to my fellow Co-Optimus writers, they hit me with the best example of how to explain the mode to our readers. Remember how Super Mario Galaxy had a co-op mode in it? The first player controls Mario who can jump, leap, “Whahoo” all over the place, while the second player was given the limited role of using another Wii remote to collect star bits using a cursor. Besides that, the second player also had an almost pointless ability to shoot these into enemies to stun them for a few seconds. “Sidekick” Mode in Unlimited is essentially the same sort of thing. The player controlling Maxwell with the GamePad gets to play the game as normal by imagining and creating things, and is able to access far more of the game, while the secondary players (up to three) are given the ability to: select and control the objects Maxwell creates.

Now, this might seem like fun at first thought, but it quickly becomes apparent for the secondary players that creating things themselves would save a lot of time, rather than wait for someone to create the objects and add the adjectives for them. Secondary players are also unable to access or really help on Starite missions, further lessening the value of being a co-op partner. On top of that, once first-player moves over to another area, secondary players will lose whatever objects they are in control of at the time and will require another player-created object to possess before they can begin participating again.

What co-op gameplay boils down to is that the player who isn’t able to write up things has to wait for Maxwell to do anything; to cater to the one in charge. The secondary players are basically leeches to the creative, imaginative writing of the one who holds the GamePad, and this doesn’t allow for an equal co-op experience for all players across the board.

If Nintendo ever allows 5th Cell to add multiple GamePad functionality and features to this game in the future, the co-op experience would be much higher than it currently is. For the sake of Unlimited’s co-op mode, I sincerely hope that Nintendo does patch this into the game soon, because most passionate Scribblenauts players would be much appreciative if Sidekick Mode was completely expanded upon.

Overall, Scribblenauts Unlimited is a solid buy for gamers who have more ideas in their heads than they know what to do with. Hours upon hours can be spent on creating unique objects and creatures alone, and the enormous story world can keep you immersed in Starite hunting for a good, long while too. Despite the lack of desired co-op experience within this game, I highly recommend anyone picking this up for their beginning Wii U libraries. You’ll be surprised at how little time it takes to get caught up in making your dreams pop into a digital reality, just don’t plan on your friends having the same fun you’ll be having.