The classic word-based puzzle adventure series is finally back but this time in party game form. Scribblenauts Showdown may be a huge departure for the series but does it offer enough enjoyable gameplay to be a worthy entry in such a phenomenal franchise?
Whereas previous Scribblenauts games were all about sandbox fun where you try your best to make NPCs happy by writing words that make objects come to life, Scribblenauts Showdown is instead focused on mini-games. As a long-time fan of the series, this change of pace initially concerned me but after playing match after match with a chum, I must admit that we both ended up having a ton of fun.
There are two basic types of mini-games that can be played via two main modes. The types include wordy games which involve players writing a word before playing a game and speedy games that are much shorter and don't rely on entering words at all. In the wordy games, if you write a word that matches certain criteria then you gain an upper-hand so it's all about being clever enough to come up with something within the allotted time. For example, a mini-game that involves filling a black hole is a lot easier if you can think of a large object with the given criteria (for example, a word that starts with "G"). Gorilla? Grizzly? I know; Greenhouse! It can be fun stuff so let's look at the mini-games in a bit more detail.
Thankfully, most of the mini-games in Scribblenauts Showdown are quite enjoyable. One of my favourites is Get Served which plays a lot like Midway's classic arcade game Root Beer Tapper. You first write a word of what to serve customers then slide their meals along the counter while ensuring to catch the empty plates back before they smash on the ground. Whoever runs out of lives first loses. Another cool mini-game is Balancing Act which tasks you with collecting falling objects on a magic carpet that you rotate by tilting the controller while being careful not to let anything fall. Who knew donkeys stacked so well? On the other end of the spectrum, some mini-games (mostly of the speedy variety) are pretty lame. For example, randomly attacking a Piñata or trying to chop down a tree seemed to be far more random than anything. I still have no idea how to effectively play that latter example even after 5 or so attempts.
The three main modes are Versus, Showdown, and Sandbox. Versus has you and a friend simply play a succession of randomly assigned mini-games and whoever wins the most claims victory. Showdown is similar except it takes place on a board game, can be played with up to four players, and uses cards that correlate to events and mini-games. For example, you can play a card that has a mini-game on it and whoever wins that game can move ahead four spaces. It's a cool way to allow more players to compete. Last but certainly not least, Sandbox mode contains the classic Scribblenauts gameplay formula where you (and optionally, a friend) can try and make NPCs happy by thinking of creative ways to solve their problems. It's fantastic to be able to enjoy the classic Scribblenauts gameplay again.
As you play all three of these modes, you'll amass a wealth of Starites which is Scribblenauts Showdown's currency. With it, you can purchase hints and objects for Sandbox mode and items that you can customize your character with as well as default vehicles for them to use within their respective mini-games. There's also an awards menu where you can browse all of the unlockable preset characters and see your progress towards unlocking them. When you combine all these cool unlockables with the objectives in Sandbox mode where you can try and complete all the Starite objectives and earn awards; you're looking at a decent amount of replay value.
Scribblenauts Showdown may be an enjoyable game but its main problem is that it could definitely use more content. For starters, there are only 12 wordy games and 15 speedy games and once you've played them all once (which will likely happen within a couple of hours), the mini-games start becoming repetitive. Thankfully, the Sandbox mode is there to offer an entirely different experience. However, with only 8 somewhat small stages to work through, don't count on playing for much longer than a handful of hours.
As a huge fan of Scribblenauts, I'm happy to be able to enjoy more word-based mayhem even though the party formula becomes repetitive quite fast due to a limited variety of mini-games. You'll at least get a few hours of fun out of Scribblenauts Showdown but long-time fans such as myself will crave more classic sandbox fun after they experience all it has to offer.
- + Sandbox mode brings back classic creative Scribblenauts gameplay
- + Mostly fun mini-games within 2 party modes
- + Lots of replay value and content to unlock
- - Not enough mini-games with only a dozen wordy games and 15 speedy games
- - Sandbox mode only has 8 small stages
- - Some mini-games are hard to enjoy