The Scribblenauts series, which has an undeniably clever write-to-solve puzzle formula, has been an admittedly solitary experience most comfortable on handheld platforms; but Scribblenauts Showdown brings the puzzle game to the Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 in a party-game format, which tries to capture the magic of its predecessors, but with mixed results.
Previous Scribblenauts games have played out in side-scrolling adventure-type scenarios, but Showdown adds a competitive edge to the recipe, pitting up to four players against one another in different challenges. The twist however (in typical Scribblenauts fashion), is that each player can write and create their own solution (in the form of an item or rule) to give themselves an edge. Need to select an animal to win a hurdle race? Type in ‘cheetah’ (or something else that will work). Need better bait for a fishing challenge? Try a hamburger (fish love hamburgers, right?). It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek and more about having fun with your imagination that playing with real-world rules.
The bizarre and often-hilarious moments that are a result of these off-beat solutions are exactly where Scribblenauts Showdown shines. It walks the tight-rope between the absurd and oh-that’s-really-practical atmosphere excellently, providing a ton of laughs when each player whips up their solution, and finding out if they react as anticipated during the challenges.
While the ‘hook’, so to speak, is solid, there is an issue: not enough good mini-games. There are a ton of challenges, which are separated into ‘wordy’, speed or versus game-types (the ‘wordy’ games are undoubtedly the best), with a track-race with created animals, an object balancing game, and weapon combat game being highlights, but the rest are reworked version of notable mini-games found on most party experiences. This shortcoming is not a deal-breaker, as replayability is abundant with Showdown, but some additional standout wordy games would’ve added a lot to the experience. There is a sandbox mode which allows you and another player dabble in larger areas that require some object-based puzzle-solving, but it feels a little hollow compared to other Scribblenauts‘ efforts, being as it’s not the main element of the game.
For those looking to add another enjoyable option to their party game library, Scribblenauts Showdown is a great game, but it does leave us wanting a little more in terms of mini-game options and variety. It’s an admirable entry into the multiplayer world of Scribblenauts, and we know that developer Shiver Entertainment is scratching the surface on something spectacular.
Scribblenauts Showdown is available on Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.