Even after so many years, the core premise of Scribblenauts remains a powerful and imagination-fuelling achievement: type any noun, and the object will be summoned into the world with its own properties and behaviours, ready to play with. The challenge for the developers has been creating a game around that premise which stays interesting after you’ve spent an afternoon making a shotgun-toting God on a skateboard fight 20 anacondas.
Showdown tries to inject some party-friendly appeal by adding head-to-head minigames to the mix, and structures the play by introducing randomised categories and starting letters. So now, instead of making whatever you want, you and a friend might have to make a weapon starting with ‘S’ and then fight to the death with it. Or you might need to make something that would be good to knock a building down with, and extra points if it’s pointy.
This Scategories-style approach is a smart solution to the problem, but unfortunately it really could have been done better here. The visuals are cute and the dictionary system — with its seemingly infinite collection of objects that can all be modified by adjectives — is still rock solid, but it’s clear both have been lifted wholesale from previous games. This is the first Scribblenauts game since most of the original team was laid off, and it’s clear a small team has been asked to repackage as best they can.
When the minigames lean into the object creation left over from previous games it’s a lot of fun, but not enough of them do. In fact half of them are simple “speedy” games that challenge players to mash buttons (or waggle controllers, in the Switch version), with no wordplay at all.
Even a good chunk of the “wordy” callenges are bad ripoffs of existing smartphone games with word entry arbitrarily tacked on.