Battle Royale a little punch drunk; Scribblenauts Unlimited falls off

1/3/2013
BY CHRIS CAMPBELL
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

Battle Royale arrives as Sony's entree into the realm of "take popular characters from a beloved franchise and have them fight it out in a playful manner." Fun and spectacle come in bunches (or punches, if you prefer), but it fails to deliver a consistent experience.

The game's goal to be a catchall for every fighting game type impedes its success. Sometimes you get the feeling the aim for the game is to make it a PG version of Mortal Kombat sans the gore and over-the-top violence. Other times when you play, you'll believe the game is trying to separate itself from basic fighters such as Soul Calibur or Super Smash Bros.

The controls are difficult to learn. Once you master how one character (Sackboy, for instance) plays, you run into a problem, because the other characters (like Nathan Drake or Kratos) don't play similarly. You spend too much time learning each character's intricacies. It might also force you to end up specializing in one character, and ignore the joys of seeing how the others play.

The level design for the fights impresses on multiple levels. Whether you do battle in a Patapon-inspired level of flat 2-D flowers and blocks, or fend off opponents along the open door of a flying cargo plane, the levels make the battlefield visually diverse and always fascinating.

The wealth of playable characters should interest fight game fans. Just beware the sometimes-unforgiving gameplay limitations that can hinder an otherwise good time.

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The challenge of solving a puzzle using your imagination and vocabulary has delighted fans of the Scribblenaut series, which makes its debut on the Wii U with Unlimited after being a DS title for its first two iterations. Sadly, an expanded world does not equate to a 100 percent winning experience.

For those unfamiliar, this game works in a simple way: As you guide Maxwell along on his roundabout journey, you encounter puzzles that need solving. A boulder needs removing, a dragon impedes your path, or you get hungry and require a meal.

The solutions come from you -- not from choices in a menu screen, but from your imagination. Move that boulder by writing in "bomb" to blow it up, or get creative and write in "train" to bowl it over. Don't write "sword" to fight that dragon, write in "bazooka" and show that scaly beast who is the boss. Chances are the solutions you come up with will work, and you'll always get the most enjoyment by going for the more creative option.

Unlimited falters, however, because you rarely have to be unlimited in your thinking. Most often, the puzzles are simple enough that unless you challenge yourself, the game isn't going to test your mental strength. As time passes, you yearn for a few puzzles that really test you, instead of just letting you throw out oddball word combinations to see if they work.

The DS versions of the game typically featured fast and enjoyable puzzles that you could consume and appreciate for their whimsy. For a console release, a bigger scope is needed. Unlimited just doesn't reach high enough, which makes this a weekend rental.