Scribblenauts Unmasked (3DS) Review

Scribblenauts-UnmaskedWhen I was in school, I always preferred English to Math because I enjoyed spelling, reading and writing. I’ve known about the Scribblenauts series since it came out, but I passed over it thinking it was kids stuff and not overly exciting in terms of gameplay. I’m happy to say I was personally proven wrong after playing the 3DS version of Scribblenauts Unmasked, the latest game in the series.

When this game was released a few months before Christmas, I thought it would be a fun way to introduce myself to the series thanks to it being crossed with the DC Universe. While I’m not a comics fan, I’ve enjoyed DC heroes before like Batman and Superman. With that in mind, let me take you through the game’s various components and share my thoughts.

Story:

The story revolves around siblings Maxwell and Lilly. After arguing over who is better, Superman or Batman, the two decide to find out by going into the DC Universe and meeting its wide variety of heroes. This is accomplished with Maxwell’s magic notebook that can bring anything written in it to life (sort of like a friendlier Death Note) and Lilly’s magic globe which can teleport them anywhere. Unfortunately, once there, they find out Maxwell’s evil Doppelganger was brought to life as well and has teamed up with several villains to harness the power of Lilly’s globe for reasons I won’t spoil here. Maxwell must then use his notebook and the help of the Justice League to save the day and return home.

The story is pretty simplistic and easy for kids to understand, yet utilizes the DC universe nicely and has a surprisingly good comic-like plot. It ends in a sappy but heartwarming way as well, but I felt it was earned and nicely done. My favorite part, though, was the funny dialogue throughout the game. Everything from details like Batman being a total grump to some of the objectives using the occasional slightly outdated pop culture reference *coughCallMeMaybecough* made me chuckle. Even though I don’t know DC as well as Marvel, the game makes everyone’s personality shine through and even includes a portable computer/mini-encyclopedia of pretty much all the DC characters, major, minor and even obscure. It doesn’t have a ton of info per person or item, but it’s a handy tool for getting better acquainted with the characters. Overall, I liked the plot and that witty dialogue drove it home for me.

Graphics:

The graphics in this game are cartoony, clean and not too overly detailed or muddled. The DC characters in particular are designed simplistically but are easily recognizable, and the locations, while a bit compact, represent each hero well. All in all, I liked the feel this game was going for. However, I have a few complaints.

On a couple occasions, I found the game would chug or almost become unplayable if there was too much going on onscreen. For example, you are issued challenges by the villain Mxyzptlk that, if accepted, can limit your object and adjective choices or cause random things to happen in the world. On one occasion, he made everything have different attributes, which with so many characters in the level caused major slowdown in-game, so much so that I had to restart it and forgo the challenge. However, this point is a minor nitpick as it didn’t happen very often.

What DID happen often was the glitches I ran into. One of the first was when I summoned a flamethrower, only to have it not properly shoot out flames. I only know it glitched because it worked for me during another objective. Another occurred during a fight where Maxwell ended up frozen while being attacked mid-air. There were a few more aside from these, and while they didn’t completely take away from my enjoyment, they were annoyed and disheartening, as if the game hadn’t fully been tested or something. Aside from these issues, I did like the overall design of the game and the clean look of it.

Sound:

I will say this: The music in this game is both appropriate to each level and yet a lot of it sounded generic to me. Having not played the other three Scribblenauts games, I’m not sure if this is just their style, but it would’ve been nice to have some copyrighted or similar sounding themes in there. The sound effects were pretty well done from the screams of bystanders to the cartoony punching sounds while battling. While the dialogue is written as text, there is a narration during the beginning and ending cutscenes (the only ones in the game). Much like the narrator in Kirby’s Epic Yarn, it sounds like it’s supposed to appeal to kids, yet I was surprised by who the narrator turned out to be. Nevertheless, the sound design was pretty decent.

Gameplay:

As usual, we come to the meat of any game. The main draw of Scribblenauts is that you can literally create almost anything that comes to mind, and the added use of adjectives allows for plenty of creativity. Unmasked is split up into several worlds with five levels for Batman, three for Superman, and one each for Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Flash, as well as the final boss level. In each level, you have a story mission which involves collecting Starites, the main collectible of the series. These are used to advance the plot and pit Maxwell and each DC hero against Doppelganger and one of their major foes, like Batman vs. Joker, Superman vs. Lex Luthor, etc. You’re given the task to either create certain objects or add adjectives to help in the battle.

This also carries over to the levels themselves, as every time you enter one you get a random selection of objectives to complete. I already mentioned the Mxyzptlk challenges, but these objectives can range from simple tasks like fixing a building to creating a superhero team out of your choice of DC heroes. The story missions and these objectives help you gain reputation points, the currency of the game. These points let you unlock levels, unlock bonus origin story levels for each Justice League member which serve as extra points and information, and unlock special costumes of heroes and villains for Maxwell to wear that give him their abilities. You even gain points just by creating random, crazy things for fun. Supposedly, there are over 1000 objectives that can appear and you’re rarely supposed to have the same one twice. My gripe with this is that I have to wonder if this only covers variations of objectives, because I got many repeats to the point of it getting a little repetitive.

The game can be breezed through in a few hours if you play it straight or at least 10+ if you take your time to unlock everything and try different, creative methods of fulfilling objectives (as I did). Aside from a few repetitive objectives, my other gripe with the gameplay is the fact that you have to build up points in order to unlock the next levels. Both Batman and Superman have their own kinds of points, and the other members all share the same kind as well. This makes unlocking the Batman ones because there are more levels to dole out points, but for Superman and the others it takes a little more time and repetition to unlock more. It can be a little tedious, but if you do tackle the game aiming to be creative, it makes it less like a chore in the long run.

Overall, for my first foray into the Scribblenauts series, Unmasked was a fun introduction. I’m a little ashamed I’ve looked down on the series so far, because now I want to check the rest out. The use of the DC license was a good way to suck me in and keep me interested, and the ability to create nearly everything from a purple people-eating eraser to Cthulhu himself was just awesome. But you really need to go in willing to test your creative chops to get the most out of it and those glitches can get irritating at times.

I give Scribblenauts Unmasked a solid 7/10.

Love/Hate for Reality Shows

I have a very love/hate relationship with reality shows, ever since way back when “Survivor” seemed to give the genre its booming popularity. For those who have read my blog in the past, you may know that I do enjoy some shows like “Tattoo Nightmares”, “Ink Master”, “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen”. I’d like to take this week’s blog to share my personal history and like/dislike of reality TV.

Back when the genre was really starting to gain popularity, I used to indulge in fun shows like “Survivor”, “Fear Factor”, and “The Amazing Race” (a show I still enjoy though haven’t been following). On the flipside, to my now older self’s chagrin, I also got almost equal enjoyment out of shows like “Big Brother”, “The Simple Life” (earning my dislike for Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie), and “For Love or Money”. I knew even at a younger age that the reality aspect of these shows was skewed and exaggerated, which tended to make me lean towards competitive or life-changing shows.

Even in more recent years, despite not watching as much TV as I once did, I still enjoy shows that try to improve someone’s life or present fun (and often dramatic) competitions. I’ve seen more “good” reality shows than bad, and yet the genre is one that easily makes me cringe more than any other. Why? I think it’s partly because I know people, whether in a good or bad reality show, go on looking for attention. It doesn’t matter if they’re pursuing fame, a hookup or some big prize, they all want to get something out of it. What makes one show different from another is the “prize” at stake.. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” bill themselves as helping people with real problems, be it losing weight or having a decent place to live. I like these shows because a result is formed, even if it’s temporary, and the “prize” is something that benefits the person aside from getting a trip or winning money.

Where reality shows fall apart for me is when the situation starts to feel extremely unbelievable and unrelatable. My biggest offender for this is basically every dating show ever made, especially “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” series. While for some people the prospect of falling in love in a short amount of time (surrounded by many other men/women) may be plausible, I never once bought into it. That’s not to slam anyone who, in real life, HAS fallen in love and had a lasting relationship in little time, but in the land of reality TV it just never clicked with me. It always felt fake and implausible to me, and it shows with how few couples have managed to make it from such shows. I think one reason why I enjoyed “For Love or Money” back then was because it was more competition-like. Choices could be made so that if the man or woman standing in the end didn’t feel the butterflies of true love, they could opt for a cash prize for all their troubles. Sure. it’s incredibly shallow, but at least it didn’t try to completely push for a relationship by the end.

Ultimately, whether you think some or all reality shows are trash, they will never go away as long as an audience still exists for them, just like with any other show out there. I personally feel that if one has something I’m interested in, regardless if it’s competitive/live-changing/fun, I will make the effort to watch it. And if there’s one thing I pride myself on now, it’s that I’ve learned to move past shows that exist solely to aggravate me to no end.

Animation Lamentation

I freakin’ love animated movies. I love the graphical work, the voiceover process, and the overall creativity that can occur. Like most people, my love for animation started with the granddaddy of them all, Disney. From there, I’ve seen animated films both good and bad. While I may lament viewing some films (like Cars 2), there are still aspects I can find in most films that I like.

But one thing I don’t like is the continued assumption that animated films are for kids because of their “cartoon-ish” appearance. To me, the mark of a good or even great film is one that both kids and parents can enjoy. Films that are insultingly bad or juvenile, the ones many parents would gladly put their kids in front of as a distraction, disgust me. If a film can’t even entertain someone older, what right does it have being viewed by someone younger?

Perhaps it’s just how our minds work, in that even as a kid, I watched both good and downright bad movies and shows. Animated films have both the gift and curse of being bright, colorful, often joke-filled and with easy-to-understand stories (for the most part). They’re everything a kid WOULD enjoy regardless of the quality. Now, I may not be looking to have kids, but even I feel that they’d deserve no less than the best in entertainment than some mindless, poorly animated movie whose humor high point is a fart joke (c’mon, even stuff like Shrek has more depth than that).

In that vein, I feel like childless adults like me really get a good sense of what kinds of movies we would show our kids or, in my case, nieces. I recently watched The Lego Movie, and while I didn’t grow up with much Lego in my household, it’s a movie that carries nostalgia for older folks and newfound fun for kids. Thanks to it, Lego has seen a comeback in a huge way and opens the door for an activity for new generations of kids to enjoy possibly with their parents. It’s films like that, with quality visuals, humor for both kids and adults, and a heartwarming yet simplistic story that I can get behind.

And sometimes even “bad” animated films can have good aspects to them. Going back to my example of Cars 2, while I detest Larry the Cable Guy and thought the story was weak even compared to Cars, that Pixar level of quality visuals still kept me watching and there was the rare joke that hit once in a while. Would I ever expose my nieces to it? No, not with other, much better options available, but it goes to show that even some bad films have some good in them. I’ve seen plenty with no substance whatsoever for kids or adults.

For me, going to see an animated film, whether good or bad, lets me feel like a big kid while praising or criticizing it like an adult. I don’t feel like I could ever “grow out” of animated films, and I hope I never do. I can only hope that for every bad animated film, more people take the time to create fresh, quality films to counter them.

Escape from Reality

Given that I haven’t had much going on in my life lately, I thought I’d take some time to do as I do best and be honest. Things have been slow since I left my last (awful) job, what with it being the winter season still and a small, mostly jobless town to boot. I’ve been back in the grind of filling applications and passing out resumes in the hope that I can get something, ANYTHING better and less soul-crushing than fast food. So far, things have come up empty.

With each person telling me “We’re not hiring right now,” I still can’t help but wonder if taking two more years of school after my initial two would have made much difference besides less money in my pocket. Moving is expensive, cars are expensive, and both equal out as “not happening right now.” And, as I’ve said in previous posts, my town only really offers two opportunities that take full advantage of my schooling. Two places which, no matter how many times I put my name in, either refuse or can’t hire me. It’s also very frustrating to have improved cashier skills but feel afraid to put my measly recent 4-month work stint on my resume (considering how awful that boss was).

But aside from the internet and my loving fiance, the one thing that’s been keeping me sane lately has been video games. They’ve always been my main escape from reality (ha, title drop) and I’ve been soaking in everything to do with them. Be it playing actual games, watching other people play games, or reading comics about peoples’ experience with games, I’ve been more obsessed than ever. It helps get my mind off of things besides the job issue as well, such as that 2014 is shaping up to be the most costly year for me yet. This is due to necessities like passport renewal and eyeglasses. Needless to say, even though there haven’t been many new game announcements so far, I can see my purchases being few and far between this time.

Still, video games let me relax and forget my troubles from a couple hours to even a few minutes of play. I’ve already talked about my recent obsession with Pokemon and reviewed the newest Zelda title. I’ve just been on a gaming spree recently and it shows little sign of stopping while I enjoy what free time I have. Some might not consider it the most productive use of my time, but it if means a bit of solace from the pressures of life, I’ll continue to take it.

My Top 10 Cutest Pokemon

On the challenge of my fiance, I’ve decided to continue my little Pokemon obsession by bringing you a list of 10 of my favorite cute Pokemon. I do have a few rules in place, though. The first is that I’m not including starters or legendaries since I basically like them all. And the second is that I’m only looking at one Pokemon per evolution line (with the exception of one but we’ll get to that). Keep in mind that these are all my choices and there are many more I would’ve gladly chosen past these.

On that note, let’s jump right in. Here are my top 10 cutest Pokemon:

10. Zorua

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Having missed out on one in White, I finally got to use Zorua in my playthrough of Pokemon X. I love this little fox for its nice, dark colors and mischievous face. While its evolution, Zoruark, is more cool than cute, Zorua is adorable and has the neat ability of shape-shifting to boot. While it’s not my favorite of the fox Pokemon, it’s become very near and dear to me.

9. Pancham

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I’ve always loved teddy bears, but this was a hard choice for me. Teddiursa is like a pure teddy bear Pokemon in terms of sheer cuteness. But ever since Pancham showed up, I haven’t stopped loving the little guy (or girl). Panda bears are some of my favorites and I love how Pancham is both cute and tough-looking. And it was a great touch putting that little leaf into his mouth. Teddiursa may have been my favorite bear, but Pancham has taken the top spot.

8. Furret

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Each generation has had its own Normal-type “rodent” of some sort. The original was Rattata, and the doofiest (in my mind) was Bidoof. But for me, Gen 2’s Furret, the evolved form of Sentret, is easily my favorite. I used to wish I could own a ferret, and I love Furret’s design, how slinky and striped it is. I also fell in love with it when I played a mini-game involving them in Pokemon Stadium 2. Of all the easy-to-find, kind of weak starting Pokemon, Furret stands out to me as the cutest and my personal fave.

7. Blitzle

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I used a Blitzle during White, and while it was a bit fragile, I loved this fast little zebra. Like most of the Pokemon on this list, its evolution, Zebstrika, falls more on the cool side. But the moment I saw Blitzle in-game, I knew I had to have it. It’s one of the best-looking Electric types I’ve used and is a bit speedy to boot. While it falls a bit short of this list’s next entry, Blitzle made it with me to the end of White and served me well throughout. 

6. Ponyta

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Of all the animals you’d typically think of as “farm” animals, horses are my favorite. I used to enjoy the occasional pony ride during my childhood as well, so a Pokemon as fast and cute as Ponyta appealed to me. Plus, it’s a Fire type, which I can honestly say has produced some of my all-time favorite Pokemon to date. Besides the cuteness factor, Ponyta just has an overall nice design and is handy in battles. While I tended to favor my Charizard over any other Fire type, I always made time to catch Ponyta. 

5. Lillipup

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There have been many dog-like Pokemon over the years, but those like Houndour and Poochyena tended to look more…mean than cute. Don’t get me wrong, I love them as well, but little Lillipup just won me over. Not only is it a cute terrier-like Pokemon, but it’s also found from the very start of your journey, making it a useful companion. While I’m not as big on its evolutions, I adored this little pup in the time that I had him. He’s my favorite since…well, the next entry on this list.

4. Growlithe

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Sure, Growlithe was the original dog Pokemon, but that’s why I love him so much. I’ve always loved and wanted a dog since I was little, and while I still haven’t owned one, having dogs like Growlithe were the next best thing. Now, granted, I’m not strictly a dog person nor a dog Pokemon person. Just like I love my cat in real life, I do love cats such as Persian and Meowstic in Pokemon. But Growlithe left more of an impression (not just cuteness) on me at the time, and I still love the little fire mutt to this day.

3. Pichu 

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Yes, I know Pichu is extremely weak and not great for battling, but I don’t care. In terms of cuteness, Pichu is my favorite of all the baby Pokemon, coming just ahead of Elekid in that regard. My first venture with Pokemon Yellow had me with Pikachu from the get-go, just like the anime, and from there I quickly grew to love both its baby self and evolved self, Raichu. While all three Pokemon are adorable, I always found Pikachu and Raichu to be cool. Pichu, while lacking that, is pure cuteness to me, and the fact that it evolves into my first ever starter gives it a special place on this list.

2. Vulpix

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Yep, we have another Fire type. Vulpix was the first fox Pokemon I saw, before I got into the games or anime. In junior high, I saw it in a book a friend owned and immediately fell in love with it. This also wasn’t helped by me watching the anime at a later time to discover Brock had a Vulpix as well. Both Vulpix and its evolution, Ninetales, are not just cute Pokemon to me but are also some of my all-time favorite Pokemon in general. However, there is one more Pokemon that tops it and all the rest.

1. Eevee (and its evolutions)

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Simply put, Eevee is the cutest Pokemon to me, and I’m gladly cheating when I say that ALL of its possible evolutions are just as cute in my mind. I just love the variety involved, and it all comes from one simple-looking little fox. My go-to evolution was always Jolteon in the original games, but as more evolutions have been released, I quickly loved each one regardless if I used them. I even accomplished my long-time goal of having every single Eevee evolution (including Eevee itself) in one game with X. I’m proud to say I worked to get them all and enjoy them for the cute powerhouses they are. While they might not all be the absolute best in their respective types, I can’t help liking the concept behind them and the great designs as well. Eevee has cuteness on top of versatility, and that’s why it’s my #1 cutest Pokemon.

So there you have it, 10 of my favorite cute Pokemon. These were narrowed down from a pretty big list, but they’re the ones I felt deserved to be on it the most. If you have different picks you’d like to share, feel free to in the comments.