Scribblenauts has always been faced with a dilemma: how do you give unlimited creativity to players, allowing them to solve puzzles in dozens of ways, without allowing the gameplay to become a bit too easy?
Scribblenauts Unlimited for Nintendo 3DS doesn't solve this issue. It's still rather easy, as you solve puzzle after puzzle by conjuring up the first thing that comes to mind.
But what Unlimited does do is restructure the entire experience in such a way that it really doesn't matter that it's easy to breeze through it - you'll want to see every last glorious moment anyway.
Maxwell's sister is slowly turning to stone, and you have to save her by journeying around the world and helping people to collect special Starites.
This involves tapping on people to discover what their problems are and then entering a word to hopefully help them out. Doctor needs medical supplies? Type 'stethoscope'. A bully is terrorising a child? Why not conjure up a UFO to abduct problem child?
As well as throwing nouns into the works, you can also attach adjectives to people and objects to give them new properties. For example, you can tell a lamppost that it's now 'alive'. It makes for some utterly hilarious scenarios.
This is all possible in previous Scribblenauts games. What Scribblenauts Unlimited does is place this gameplay in an open-world with huge areas to explore and hundreds of people to help out.
You've got your main missions, which take a few minutes each, but then you've also got side missions scattered everywhere that take just moments to solve, and object missions that require you try a whole variety of wacky combinations to collect Starite shards.
It's this structuring that gives the entire franchise a whole new lease of life. It's quite simply the missing link that developer 5th Cell has been searching for.
Scribble me this
And Scribblenauts Unlimited continues to outdo previous Scribblenauts releases in other areas, too.
There are fewer moments that require precise controls, which was always a bugbear of the series. The controls still aren't perfect, with slight annoyances here and there, but there's a marked improvement.
We also found that Scribblenauts Unlimited felt rather educational compared to past Scribblenauts games. At several points we had to conduct a bit of Google research in order to solve a puzzle.
For example, at one stage the game asks you to find something to put in a George Washington exhibit in a museum. Thanks to Google, we plonked down a cherry tree.
That said, logic isn't always on your side. Sometimes what would seem to be a reasonable solution to a problem doesn't work. It's the curse of having a truly open game with a necessarily finite number of interactions in it. To the game's credit, however, we found that these jarring illogical moments were rare.
All in all, it's a great package. Throw in StreetPass functionality, which allows you to share your solutions with other players, and Scribblenauts Unlimited proves itself to be one of the best Nintendo 3DS games of the year.