Damn, they really want kids to read their dictionary, don't they?
Scribblenauts Unmasked is the first of the series with a license attached to it—that's right, doll-like superheroes of the DC universe can fly around and help Maxwell cause havoc. Beyond the new faces, Unmasked is exactly what every other Scribblenauts has been: a series of puzzles and missions to find and maintain Starites. That's not to say it's a bad thing, or that it's done here any worse (or better) than it has in the past, just that it's more of the same. And it makes sense, as the premise lends itself to being "what it is" instead of… well, much of anything else.
The missions here focus around the new access to heroes, like helping the Flash win a footrace and stopping Luthor who's as powered up as Supes (that's my nickname for Superman… we're close and stuff). The Starites are littered around the DC landscape; they hide in Supes' Fortress of Solitude, Wayne Manner, Atlantis, and a smattering of other locations that involve famous crime-fighters that dot the different environments. Some of them are even "classic" puzzles—my personal favorite being "get the cat out of the tree" (which I always light on fire).
Each location has a different set, but they're always randomly generated and unique… though by "unique" I actually mean that only one or two minor elements are changed. Different animals might need to be created, or a new adjective might be necessary, and that makes every puzzle different from person to person, game to game.
Maybe it's just that I missed the first Scribblenauts on Wii U, but I enjoyed the minor use of the multiplayer element, which along with uploading your unique item creations, makes up the only difference between Wii U and 3DS versions. The main player will, of course, use the tablet to control and create, but other players can jump in and control some of the different characters created; for example, if the tablet player creates Arm Fall Off Boy (THE GREATEST SUPERHERO IDEA EVER!), another player can use a Wii-mote to choose and take control of him to assist in the mission. It's pretty minor, but as fun as watching another player play the game is—which is almost as fun as watching your friend read the dictionary, only twice as interactive—it's fun to jump in and take some control as a more traditional side-scrolling title. Sure, they can't create anything themselves, but they can beat the crap out of stuff and distract a young kid who otherwise should probably not have a live controller.
In the bigger picture, it surprises me just how successful a game based on the dictionary has been. As somebody who loves to write, it makes sense for someone like me to enjoy it, but I'm genuinely happy that a game encourages kids in particular to "explore their imagination." It doesn't necessarily mean they will… a lot of puzzles can cause word recycling to happen over and over again. But the very idea that not every puzzle is easily addressed with either a rocket launcher or Superman is fun for me, especially since there's more than one hero version to call on. (Side-note: I wish it was Batman "Adam West" instead of "Seventies"... sometimes the Shark Repellant Bat Spray is the right tool).
The little touches from previous versions, like the paper-doll aspects of character movement and the tiny explosions of new stuff appearing and dying horrible, comical deaths, are back and crisper than ever. Sadly, for a game with some interesting depth potential, the 3D on the portable side is entirely absent beyond the opening screen. There could have been some time-sensitive puzzles happening up top and "create everything you can" challenges with the keyboard on the bottom, but nothing I came across at least did that. It's just… more of the same. Not bad, per se, just disappointing. It could've used a gimmick beyond summoning both Aqualad and Plastic Man to mingle with the likes of the Lanterns and Jokers.
So here we are then: yet another sequel with a case of the "could've beens." It's still amusing, but let's just be honest, the amount of interest in Scribblenauts is getting a bit smaller every time, no matter how much we might enjoy it.