Reviews - Updated on April 12, 2022

The Scribblenauts games have never been released on PlayStation or Xbox. Some of them remained exclusive to Nintendo platforms, some visited PC, and a couple more are available on smartphones and tablets. Therefore, I personally was glad about the announcement of Scribblenauts Showdown … until I remembered that dozens of employees from the 5th Cell studio that created the series were fired, and a completely different team is engaged in the novelty. And instead of a normal project with many levels and puzzles, the trailer showed a set of mini-games for parties. It’s a shame to admit it, but after a few hours spent in Showdown, there is no longer any hope for a bright future for the series.Scribblenauts Showdown game review

One of the mini-games is a copy of the “actual” Flappy Bird.

Forgotten old

The main problem with the new game is how different it is from its predecessors. Previously, the character carried a notebook with him, in which he wrote down any words to create all kinds of objects next to him. You could choose from several thousand words, and you could add adjectives to nouns – to clarify whether your dinosaur will be small or giant, whether you want to build a house from certain materials, and so on. For the Western audience, it was an opportunity to let their imagination run wild, and Russian-speaking players could easily learn a lot of new English words and also enjoyed solving riddles.

For some reason, this idea was almost completely abandoned in Showdown, making the input of letters an insignificant element of the gameplay. Now we are offered a pack of mini-games, in which you can participate either with artificial intelligence or with a live partner behind one TV. These games are divided into two categories: Wordy and Speedy. The use of different words is important only for the first type, in the second they are not needed at all.

In Wordy, each stage begins with a wheel that spins and stops with an arrow pointing to a random topic. After that, the participants must enter a word corresponding to this topic – for example, you will be asked about what insects you know, people of what professions have a vehicle, what can be found on the beach or in the forest. Sometimes the conditions become more difficult – the first letter of the word is chosen, and you need to come up with an object or creature of a certain shape.

Nobody forbids entering words that are not related to the topic, but in this case the player does not get bonuses that are unique for each stage. If the task is to get the car to the other end of the road, using the right word will significantly reduce the number of obstacles. And if you choose an animal with a high speed of movement on the treadmill, you will be able to get to the finish line faster than your opponent. That is, you seem to enter words, and something seems to happen, but this has nothing to do with Scribblenauts, and therefore quickly gets bored.

Scribblenauts Showdown game review

If you enter the first letters of the word, you can not type the rest – possible options will appear below.

In Speedy mode, you do not need to enter letters at all, but there the mini-games are much simpler and more dreary. Click on the buttons that appear on the screen to drag the rope. Shake the gamepad for ten seconds and dig up the treasure. Throw each other watches until someone’s alarm goes off. Even milking a cow in 1-2-Switch seemed more original. Showdown consists entirely of trivial mini-games, among which only a few turned out to be more or less fun. In one of them, participants sit on flying carpets and catch objects falling from above, and the one who misses five objects is considered the loser. A simple task is complicated by the fact that when the carpets collide, the objects lying on them can fall out, and this is one of the few fun where you do not just mindlessly press the buttons.

Not everything is lost

Fortunately, this is not all of the content available. There is also a Showdown mode, which combines the “board” and the same mini-games. Participants enter a winding path and receive several cards that say how many steps the character will take when playing them. You can not move forward, but push the opponent back, but in any case, for this you will almost always have to win short confrontations. When you start the mode, you can choose its duration – a short session ends in about 15 minutes, and the longest one will take a little less than an hour.

In the company of friends, this virtual “tabletop” will certainly seem exciting, but the same shortcomings become noticeable in it as in other modes. The mini-games are often repetitive – spending just one hour on the new Scribblenauts will show you everything it has to offer.

Scribblenauts Showdown game review

The artificial intelligence has three difficulty levels, but it’s better to play with friends.

In addition, some of them are terribly inconvenient to manage. Particularly annoying mini-game with a helicopter, which must deliver the goods to different points. For some reason, you can’t control the stick in it – you need to tilt the gamepad in different directions and hold X to move. The cargo is constantly swinging, the helicopter flies past the buildings over and over again, and the mood deteriorates faster and faster.

Hidden in the menu is another mode called Sandbox. And this is the only thing that somehow resembles the classic Scribblenauts. The player takes it in turns to enter several small locations where they need to solve ten puzzles each, creating objects and interacting with living beings. The characters do not speak – they only give small hints shown in the clouds above their heads. And the entire list of tasks can be viewed in the pause menu.

Here the player’s imagination is not limited – he can print anything that comes into his head. The animal has a toothache – create a toothbrush or invite a tooth fairy. The frog feels lonely – call for a friend for her. You can populate the entire location with a variety of creatures, checking if there is a particular word in the local dictionary. Add adjectives, change the characteristics of animals, forge weapons from the air, recruit all sorts of professions and surround yourself with a crowd of people in dissimilar costumes. Without a touch screen, this is not as difficult as it might seem – the virtual keyboard is divided into several parts of four letters each, and by moving the stick you select the desired fragment, and then press the corresponding buttons on the right half of the gamepad.

However, there are catastrophically few such levels in the game – after passing them, it seems that it was just a demo version. They seemed to be added only so that longtime fans of the series would not be indignant. Despite the abundance of possibilities for the player, most puzzles have only one solution, and therefore there is nothing inventive in these puzzles either. If earlier we could get an asterisk from a tree by building a ladder, flying on a dragon, creating an ax and hitting the trunk or finding some other ways, in Showdown we lazily run around a tiny location, press buttons and solve puzzles with obvious answers. Even if you don’t know that another studio was involved in the development, it will be noticeable to any fan of the series. Here, they seem to give room for imagination, but there is no desire to innovate and come up with funny and unusual solutions.

Scribblenauts Showdown game review

Each mini-game comes with a little tutorial.

***

If you’ve ever played Scribblenauts, it’s best to ignore Showdown. And the new audience will not see anything interesting here. Probably even Warner Bros. not quite understand why this project exists. There are few single-player levels, and the puzzles are laughable. Mini-games begin to repeat after an hour, and the vast majority of them are primitive entertainment, where you have to press one button or shake the gamepad. For the sake of the Showdown mode alone, which turned out to be tolerable and may appeal to a group of friends, it makes no sense to play – you get bored very quickly. The series is dead, the studio that created it is also about to close, so it’s better to buy Scribblenauts Unlimited on Steam and spend your time on a great game, and not on this boring craft that you can run only for the sake of easy “platinum”.

Pros: good Showdown mode, reminiscent of a board game inspired by Scribblenauts; light “achievements”.

Cons: the game has almost nothing to do with the series; you need to enter words and create objects only in a mode that has clearly received little attention; mini-games quickly begin to repeat themselves, and not all of them are successful.

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