A pint-sized boy uses the power of words to help a universe filled with superheroes in the epic Scribblenauts Unmasked — A DC Comics Adventure (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and 5th Cell, rated E10+, reviewed with Wii U, $59.99).
The award-winning franchise starring a rooster-hat-and-headphone-wearing youngster named Maxwell returns with a twist appealing to every budding comic-book nerd in the family.
Continuing to embrace a two-dimensional, side-scrolling world, the game still features a minimalist, hand-drawn animated approach to life powered by the player's ability to spell.
As Maxwell requires help, say to reach the top of a building or fight off a dragon, his human handler uses the Wii U GamePad's stylus to tap on its screen keypad and assemble a noun, adjective or phrase that in almost every instance, either embellishes a character or arrives to solve a situation.
I'll reference an early dilemma and my use of a Gigantic Purple Fire Breathing Chicken to help my little buddy in a jam.
Now imagine, my nerdy brethren, not only having the power of the stylus pen to conjure up thousands of objects and figures but having the potency to call upon nearly every character, vehicle and item tied to the famed DC Comics universe.
Hey, I'm not kidding here. With easily more than 2,000 DC-themed items in all, take a look at some of the eclectic heroes, villains and stuff to use.
* Under characters, sure we get Batman with 35 costume variations to be precise (from Dark Knight Returns Batman to 1970s Batman) and 16 versions of Superman (from Cyborg Superman to All Star Superman Doomsday) along with the other familiar Justice League members from the past seven decades. So how about also such lesser-known entities as the Inferior Five member Awkwardman or Earth-C legend Captain Carrot to name a few?
* Under teams, let's revel in calling up at will the combined might of Sugar and Spike, the Wonder Twins, Seven Soldiers of Victory or Doc Magnus' Metal Men.
* Under helpful objects, a player can take full advantage of Adam Strange's jetpack, Bizarro Red Kryptonite, Green Arrow's Arrowcar, the Flash's Cosmic Treadmill, Braniac's Starship and the Huntress' crossbow with plenty more items available.
For those unsure of who or what to use, a simple click pulls up the Batcomputer for explanations about everything and everyone. Not only is the famed electronic brain of the Batcave required to call up any of the above, but also it's an immersive, encyclopedic session of learning.
The possibilities packed into the often mission-based action are truly endless as Maxwell visits such famed locales as Oa, Gotham City, Metropolis, Themyscira, Arkham Asylum and Central City to take part in Heroic Feats, Mr. Myxyzptlk (a fifth-dimensional troublemaker) Challenges and other ways to help heroes.
In previous games, Maxwell spent most time solving puzzles with a peppering of combat. Now, he really steps up to thwart the forces of evil.
Basically, his priorities are much more combat-oriented now. He must battle alongside DC's most powerful heroes and find missing Starites, an energy source used to power his twin sister Lily's magical globe (a long-distance traveling device) while confronting an evil doppelganger aligned with many a familiar DC villain.
You better believe the Joker shows up as well as Lex Luthor, Killer Croc and a cabal of archenemies.
Of course, Maxwell helps folks along the way, and he earns reputation points tied to each area that unlock superhero origin stories, new locations and cool costumes of all of DC's cast. I'll admit that having our little hero wear an Animal Man costume put me in a pre-Halloween frame of mind.
As far as mission depth, life is always a mind-bending struggle for Maxwell.
For example, while in the middle of battle on the Green Lantern's planetary headquarters of Oa between Thaal Sinestro and Hal Jordan, Maxwell struggles against his doppelganger looking for a Starite.
Before being able to defeat his twin, the greedy Larfleeze (one of the nefarious Orange Lanterns) appears on the scene to take the Starite.
I had Maxwell first bring to life a mongoose to defeat a snake construct from the greedy Lantern, then tempt him with slice of pizza, while I stole his orange lantern to distract him and have Hal Jordan grab the precious Starite.
Players looking for a more customized experience can stop by the Batcave again to use the Hero Creators module and craft the ultimate character using parts and powers from any of DC Comic's finest along with near any part a player can type.
Those new characters are now available to help Maxwell at any time during his mission, or can be shared with online friends.
While mentioning friends, an extra three players can stop by and use "Wiimote" controllers to maneuver items or characters created by Maxwell for quite a co-operative session.
Parents looking for a game loaded with replay ability to spark a pop-culture-loving youngster's creativity will find Scribblenauts Unmasked - A DC Comics Adventure the perfect experience.
A player will quickly discover that the greatest superpower in the universe is when a human combines words with his imagination.
Parental Advice: Mom and Dad would be wise to act as omniscient observers to not only witness Junior's spelling prowess in action but help with some of the strategies.
I'll admit it was hard not to scream out loud, "How do you spell that?" when a certain, alphabetically challenged 13-year-old found it easier to use the game's word-referring short cuts. Suffice to report, it's still an enlightening amount of etymological power at the fingertips.
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