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Scribblenauts Showdown Review: Your New Favourite Party Game

If you’re in the market for a new party game to play with friends, look no further than Scribblenauts Showdown.

Games that mainly comprise lots of minigames generally bore me pretty quickly (more likely, I get tired of losing again and again…) but Scribblenauts Showdown kept me coming back for more. Primarily a multiplayer game, it’s not quite what you’d expect from a Scribblenauts title — and at first that shook me a little — but once I saw what Showdown had to offer, I was hooked.

The main offerings of Scribblenauts Showdown are its Showdown and Versus modes. Both are compilations of minigames — over 25 in total, meaning there’s plenty of variety on offer. Showdown plays out like a board game, which you can play with up to three other players or solo against the CPU. Taking it in turns to play a card, each has a command — e.g. move forward three spaces, pick up two cards — and while some are instant, others will require you to play a minigame first. The winner of the minigame will get the benefit of the card — be it moving closer to the finish line, or sending another player back a few steps.

The boardgame aspect is merely a nice framing device for the minigames themselves, which are the real stars of the show. Falling into a number of different categories, each one is unique, even though some feel very familiar. There’s a Scribblenauts version of Flappy Bird, for instance, and another that feels a lot like Angry Birds. It’s all harmless though, and every minigame is fun in its own right.

While the minigames themselves don’t sound particularly… Scribblenaut-ified, that comes in the form of having to conjure your own object that you’ll use in the minigame. A text wheel allows you to type in your own word, and the game supposedly supports over 35,000 inputs. For instance, in a minigame where you need to launch objects at your opponent’s tower to knock it down, you’ll want to choose something big and heavy — rocks, or bricks, or, I dunno, a hippopotamus, as long as you don’t mind upsetting PETA. For another where you need to catch falling objects and balance them on a platform, you’ll want to choose something fairly small and square. It’s very clever, although not entirely foolproof — even though the game prompts you with a category before coming up with an item, it doesn’t seem very well enforced. On the tower-destroying game, no matter my category, I seemed to be able to type “dynamite” to obliterate the crap out of my opponent. Heh heh. I’m not complaining — well, not until my opponent uses dynamite on me when the category was supposed to be “recyclable objects”. Damn you, CPU.

Versus mode is similar to Showdown in that it’s a compilation of minigames, but this time minus the boardgame part. If you want to jump straight into a battle of skills with your friends, then versus is the mode to flee to. You can choose a set number of games, which will be randomly selected for you, or you can manually pick each game you’d like to play. For me, the Showdown mode is the best way to enjoy the game with friends, but Versus is a great way to get some practice in, if nothing else.

Now, as great as Scribblenauts Showdown is, it’s not exactly what a Scribblenauts fan would expect from the game’s first foray onto home consoles. That’s where Sandbox mode comes in. Somewhat misleadingly labelled, Sandbox mode is a series of small levels that play more like Scribblenauts Unlimited. A few levels are unlocked right from the start, and others you’ll need to unlock by spending stars — an in-game currency that you’ll earn as you play every mode and by completing certain in-game achievements. Stars can also be spent on new character items and objects which can then be drawn in Sandbox mode.

Sandbox mode can be played in single player or in co-op, and just like traditional Scribblenauts, you’ll find a series of puzzles and quests that need solving by creating the right objects. Perhaps you’ll need to save someone from danger, or provide an animal with the tasty food treat it badly craves. The levels are pretty small and can be completed in around 15 minutes if you know what you’re doing, but they’re still entertaining — and are a welcome addition alongside the main multiplayer offerings of the game.

To say Scribblenauts Showdown is mainly a party game designed to be played with a number of friends, it’s great to see that it does include full functionality as a single player game, too. Sure, the Versus and Showdown modes might not be quite as fun against a CPU opponent, but a choice of difficulty levels means that there’s enough challenge and entertainment to be had even when your friends aren’t available. As far as party games go, however, Scribblenauts Showdown might just be one of my new favourites. It’s certainly going to be the new go-to videogame whenever friends come over. And I’ve been honing my skills, so they better watch out.

Scribblenauts Showdown is available on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. We reviewed the Xbox One version.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.