As I sit down to write the review, I feel conflicted with bitter-sweet feelings. On one hand, I’ve always liked the Scribblenauts franchise. I think they’ve created something special. Maxwell is a perfect protagonist to compliment the feel of the franchise as a whole. The concept of solving puzzles by typing out different words is such a unique take especially when you consider the market is flooded with shooters. I’ve always loved how my imagination is my only limit to how I enjoy the game. What I’ve always wanted is to see this executed on a larger scale. Scribblenauts Unlimited paved the way for this dream. Unfortunately Showdown takes a much different path.
Now I’m not saying Scribblenauts Showdown is a bad game by any means; however, it’s two mediocre games in one. The main draw this time around is the Showdown mode. Basically this is 5th Cell’s version of Mario Party. You can play with 1 to 4 players on a Monopoly style board while trying to best one another at mini games with the CPU filling in if you choose to go it alone. They even included a versus mode where 2 players go head to head in these games and forfeit the game board in favor of a more direct competition. Like I said, Mario Party. The difference here is almost every game is a thinly disguised rip off of older games and mini games from the plumber’s franchise. Root Beer Tapper, check; Flappy Bird; check; Angry Birds, check; Dance Dance Revolution/Guitar Hero, big check. They even have the inappropriately motion based games from Mario party where you have to hold onto the joycon vertically and move up and down in front of you, big check! The only part where the Scribblenauts namesake comes into play during these events is to either create the character or the object you’ll be using during. Not to say these games aren’t fun, but it’s no Mario Party or Warioware. It’s still definitely fun to break out during a gathering and I feel it would far better than something like 1 2 Switch.
Then there is the other half of the Scribblenauts Showdown. This is called Sandbox mode and it’s straight up Scribblenauts. You unlock levels collecting Starites by helping people around the level using Maxwell’s magic notebook. This is the essentially the same game we’ve been playing since the first one. The second biggest problem I found in Sandbox mode is level size. They give you 8 to play with however they failed to give us the huge sprawling levels that we received during Unlimited a few years ago. The levels are a more comparable to the DS versions of games. It’s enjoyable regardless, I really just feel since we are on next generation hardware at this point they should have been able to fit a much fuller game into the package.
That being said, my hands down biggest gripe is something I didn’t even realize right away. See the magic of the Nintendo Switch is its versatility of being both a handheld and a home console. The first few times I played Showdown I was in handheld mode but as soon as I docked that bad boy I ran into a non negotiable. There is no pro controller support at all. If you select the game while using a pro controller you can’t even access the home button. You either have to pick up a joycon or manually grab the switch in handheld mode again. This translates to using 2 joycons attached to a grip as well. I loaded it up with my gripped up joycons to play a little bit and it kept recognizing then as 2 separate controllers. No worries, I’ll just go into the Switch menu and adjust controller order again, and again and again AND AGAIN! It was all for (Scribble)naut! As every time you go back into the game the controllers split again. I can understand holding the tiny joycons on their side like a NES pad for mini games in a party mode. That has become the standard for multi-player on the Switch. However, I find it utterly ridiculous that I can’t use traditional controls while I’m playing doing single player. Who wants to sit around by themselves with these tiny things? Especially since the game was released on Xbox One and Playstation 4. I know people don’t have to snap their DuelShock in half just to play Scribblenauts so why should Switch owners?
Grievances aside I found the experience overall enjoyable. I really like the new input system for entering words. I no longer have to place the system down or awkwardly hold it to type something out. Now you press a button and it brings up a series of wheels to pretty much auto predict your words. It’s a lot quicker once you get the hang of it. I still enjoy Sandbox mode, I’ll just have to do it in handheld mode. Creating things on the fly is still a blast. Zombie, Elephant, Bazooka Oh My! Running around adding adjectives to make yourself invincible or able to fly gives you a huge sense of power in such a small package. You see that right there has always been the magic of Scribblenauts. You are only limited by your imagination, and the game’s dictionary system of course! I’ll always recommend these games, even on this one where they kind of dropped the ball. I would wait for a price drop, in fact it’s been on sale for half price twice now and it’s only been a month. I even pre-ordered the game and had to get a price adjustment within 2 weeks of owning it. It’s not a bad game by any means but it definitely had enough missed opportunities to stop it from being a great one.
7 out of 10