On September 24, developer 5TH Cell brings its “Scribblenauts” franchise to the DC Universe with “Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure.” As “Scribblenauts” hero Maxwell, players use a magical notepad to summon everyday objects in order to face challenges and solve puzzles — but this time, with the added power to call upon more than 2000 DC Comics characters as well as vehicles, costumes and weapons. In fact, it’s the first time in the franchise’s history that players will be able to summon proper nouns at will. Whether it’s an obscure character like Microwavabelle or one of the many versions of an iconic DC staple like Batman, “Scribblenauts Unmasked” covers the length and breadth of the DCU to an impressive degree.
Leading the way on “Scribblenauts Unmasked” is Senior Producer Caleb Arseneaux, a veteran of the franchse. Having worked on both “Scribblenauts” and “Scribblenauts Unlimited,” Areseneaux was excited to bring some of the most beloved and iconic characters in comics to the “Scribblenauts” world.
“‘Scribblenauts’ is one of the most unique games ever created due to the amount of objects we put in the game, and the unique way that players can interact with those objects via Maxwell’s magic notebook,” Arseneaux told CBR News. “When we looked at the DC Universe, we saw an equally huge number of characters and objects that we felt players would love to interact with in a new way. We’ve added over 2000 DC Universe objects to the game, ranging from Superman to Bizarro to vehicles used by obscure characters.
“Many of us grew up with DC Comics!” he continued, citing the development team’s DCU bonafides. “From Batman to the ‘Death of Superman’ to the New 52, there are many devoted fans of the DC Universe here at 5TH Cell.”
Combining the DC Universe with an existing gaming franchise was certainly a challenge, and the team at 5TH Cell worked hard in order to reconcile the avatars and designs of “Scribblenauts” with the superheroic and larger-than-life DCU characters.
“It was awesome, partially because of our artistic interpretation of the DC Universe,” Arseneaux said. “If you look at the characters in the game, you’ll notice they fit within the art style of ‘Scribblenauts.’ Even Darkseid looks adorable!”
Constructing a game with an “adorable” art style is a task which comes with its own unique challenges. 2000 is a staggering number of characters for a single game (The only comic-related game to come close to that number of individual characters is “LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Unite” with 60 character), and Arseneaux readily admitted that the process to add every single one into “Scribblenauts Unmasked” was a long one.
“Not only do the characters need to look a specific way, but many of them have unique behavior that needs to be added in by our design team,” Arseneaux said. “That is a very time consuming process, and we all worked late hours to put as much of that detail into the characters as possible.”
Thanks to the development team’s hard work, players are able to burn some midnight oil of their own with characters of their own creation, as “Scribblenauts Unmasked” features a tool called the Hero Creator, which allows the creation of new heroes who can be called upon during gameplay. Although players can develop a character completely from scratch, it’s also possible to use one of the many DC heroes or villains as a base from which to work, with many different options to morph a recognizable DC character into something completely new.
“When working with DC on the Hero Creator in ‘Scribblenauts Unmasked,’ they were totally supportive in giving the players tons of options just like they had in ‘Scribblenauts Unlimited,'” Arseneaux said. “Their one concern was making sure we preserved the trademarked logos for the characters. After we made some adjustments on the technical side, they were happy with it.”
Although using DC’s iconic characters to solve puzzles is certainly the main draw of the game, fans will undoubtedly also be excited to see some of the storied locations of the DCU, which are featured in the open world of “Scribblenauts Unmasked,” ripe for exploration.
“‘Unmasked’ has big open world levels like you saw in ‘Unlimited,’ however, these locations are well known DC Universe locales like Atlantis, Themyscira and Metropolis,” Aresneaux said. “In these levels, you are free to explore and complete dynamic challenges called Heroic Feats, which give you reputation that can be used to unlock more levels, costumes for Maxwell and super powers!”
For longtime fans of the “Scribblenauts” story, there are a few familiar faces in the game — both Maxwell and his sister Lily feature in the story — but “Unmasked” is ultimately a tangent from the core storyline. “Think of ‘Scribblenauts Unmasked’ as a branch to the overall ‘Scribblenauts’ story,” Aresneaux said. “Maxwell and Lily travel to the DC Comics Universe to meet their favorite characters, but become entangled in a conflict and must overcome some pretty bad villains to save the day.”
As if playing with your favorite DC heroes wasn’t enough, players will also have a chance to get their hands on blind-box style toys of DC Comics characters in the style of “Scribblenauts” later this year. “We collaborated with the awesome team over at DC Entertainment on the style and design of the collectibles,” Aresneaux said. “We can’t wait to get our hands on the finished product.” And in game, there are a few Easter eggs as well, with die-hard fans able to call upon some of the higher-ups at DC Comics to solve some “Scribblenauts” puzzles — including Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee, Co-Publisher Jim Lee and more.
Regardless of how players decide to solve puzzles in “Scribblenauts Unmasked,” whether it’s by using Superman to get a kitten out of a tree or summoning the Batmobile to chase down criminals, fans can spell their way to victory on September 24 for Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC.