It should’ve left its mask on

I’ve been reading and obsessing over DC Comics properties for the better part of my entire life. Whenever a new piece of media is released in conjunction with my favorite superheroes, I must ravenously consume it and add it to my near-encyclopedic lexicon of DC lore. So, with the release of Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure, it was only fitting that I’d see what kind of an effect Maxwell’s magical notebook could have on the DC Universe. Unfortunately, this was a crossover that I wish could be erased like so many adjectives describing Maxwell’s adversaries.

Here’s the basic story: Maxwell, much like myself, obsesses over DC comic books and superheroes. While pontificating to his sister, Lily, one day about how great life would be if he could live in the DC Universe, the pair come to the conclusion that if Maxwell were to take a piece of paper from his magical notebookwhich allows anything he writes down to be brought into existencewith the word “Gotham” on it and slap it against Lily’s magic globe (which lets her travel anywhere in the world), they might be able to make Maxwell’s dream come true.

While the experiment works, in a drastic turn of events, Maxwell fails to realize that words are also written on the reverse side of that magical piece of paperincluding “Doppelganger,” who now ruthlessly aids the DCU’s villains in wreaking havoc on Gotham, Atlantis, Metropolis, Themyscira, Central City, and other DCU locales with a magical notebook of his own. In order to correct this grievous error, Maxwell promises Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League to clean up Doppelganger’s mess and bring him down.

Anyone familiar with the Scribblenauts games will instantly recognize the basic mechanics of solving puzzles and progressing by writing down objects that would make sense to the situation—for example, writing “lasso” and then tying the rope to a box that you need to pull off a cliff. Of course, more drastic and ridiculous objects could do the same, and players are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild. The major difference now is that you can draw inspiration from the DC Universe. Instead of asking for a gun, you can ask for Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun or Adam Strange’s laser gun. And if you’re not sure how to spell something, the game also provides you with access to the Batcomputer, with thousands of objects and people specific to the DCU that you can call upon by scrolling through and simply tapping on them. After all, it’s not always easy to remember how to spell “Dkrtzy RRR of Sector 188 from the Green Lantern Corps.”

But for as many well-known superhero elements as you’ll find, the game is a bit of a grind. Several levels are locked off until you solve a certain number of minor problems in order to meet a “Superhero Reputation” quota. To do this, though, you have to constantly replay the same levels, never advancing the story, and saving the same old man again and again or beat up a bunch of B-list supervillains who randomly appear for no good reason. And just summoning an army of Batmen can solve most of these minor problems.

It’s a shame, because when the game does progress, there’s some enjoyment to be had. It’s fun taking on the story-related bosses, whose ranks include many of the DCU’s most infamous evildoers. Sadly, there’s only one such encounter per level. That means the game features a dozen inventive boss fights and around 100 uninspired tasks required to access them all.

Because of that curious decision, the pacing of Scribblenauts Unmasked is akin to that one Family Guy joke where Peter hits his knee, and he holds it because he’s in pain, and it’s funny. But then it doesn’t stop, and it’s not funny anymore. Then it goes on so long that it’s funny again because you can’t believe it’s still going. That’s Scribblenauts Unmasked. It starts off as a ton of fun to pull in all these zany DCU objects and use them againstor withyour favorite characters. Then it becomes a grind, because it’s insanely repetitive to get to the next story beat. Then you get to the final boss, and you laugh because you can’t believe they were able to cram six hours’ worth of “content” into the game and decide to charge you 60 bucks.

Developer: 5th Cell • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: E10+ • Release Date: 09.24.2013
While certain elements will appeal to DC Comics fans, there simply isn’t enough substance here to make Scribblenauts Unmasked worth a purchasethe gimmick wears off way too quickly.
The Good The expansive amount of DC Comics material on display.
The Bad Grinding through the story with repetitive missions.
The Ugly You can get virtually the same game $20 cheaper on the 3DS.
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure is available on Wii U, 3DS, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Wii U.