Have You Played… Scribblenauts Unlimited?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The first time I played Scribblenauts was at the Warner booth at E3 in 2009. E3 is awful, and it stood out like a ray of golden light, emitted from a tiny DS station hidden behind their booth proper. Word of mouth saw journalists nudging each other to go check it out – this little impossible miracle of a game, where anything you typed in would appear, animated, in the game. No one believed it, everyone came away in awe. The game – it wasn’t so great. The magic – it was breathtaking.

By the time the series reached PC, it had figured out how to be a good game too. That was Scribblenauts Unlimited.

When it works.

That’s the great catch of this series. A 2D side-scrolling puzzle platformer, in which anything you type can appear. And the boundaries of “anything” go farther than you’d think. I can only assume creators 5th Cell have some giant factory of enslaved bunny rabbits, being forced to draw hundreds of thousands pictures of… everything. Then another where they animate them, and recognise their individual properties so they interact with the world and other things in appropriate ways. Or perhaps they made the game for one hundred years, but then travelled back in time to release it? It certainly doesn’t seem feasible, no matter how much it exists.

So if your task is to make a fireman happy, you can likely achieve this with something fireman related, like a truck or hose. But you might equally find success by offering him a “friendly wife”. Or a party. Want to defeat a dragon that’s burning people? Create a favourite breed of dinosaur. Or a massive werewolf. Or Cthulhu. Or God.

When it doesn’t work – when something brilliant you thought of isn’t recognised by the game – the magic comes crumbling down around you. But then you discover that putting in a time machine actually works, and then see who would win in a fight between Dracula and a killer porcupine.

10 Comments

  1. padger says:

    Yes! And I play it with my son, and he is better at it than I will ever be.

    But I can kick his ass at Quake. So it’s all cool.

  2. cyrenic says:

    Steam workshop is great for this game. All kinds of stuff the devs didn’t or couldn’t (copyright) put in there.

    My kids were pretty excited when they were able to make power rangers appear in the game.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I love this game. I had to help a guy on his date and he needed a vehicle – I summoned a huge golden tank for him and he had the most amazing date ever.

    When I have to walk for a bit and want to go faster, I like to summon a tiny fast horse. However, there are many alternatives to this, especially when taking into account that every item in the game can be made into a mount by giving it the attribute “drivable”.

    • mechabuddha says:

      Yo dawg, I heard you like drivable nouns so we put the word drivable before your noun so you can drive your noun.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        In fact “drivable noun” is a perfectly valid entry – because for some reason, the game summons a soccer ball when you type in “noun”. So this way you get a ball which you can ride.

    • RobF says:

      I’d be a bit careful around the imitation horse tho: link to steamcommunity.com

      • Premium User Badge

        Bluerps says:

        Yeah. The game lets you ride anything, but of course that does not mean you should.

        I just loaded my old savegame. Turns out I was riding a flying corgi at the end, so all is well.

  4. Martel says:

    I have this game and even installed it and keep forgetting about it. I’ll have to take it for a spin.

  5. alms says:

    I wanted to, but it’s the only game I ever had a chance to try that doesn’t work with the (admittedly unsupported) Windows X-Mouse feature.

  6. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I just chased God off a pier into the ocean. I add a hungry shark. I add a hungry octopus. I add a hungry orca. I add a hungry narwhal. The narwhal is consumed. God is not consumed. What is wrong? Oh right, I forgot to make him ‘Tasty’.