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Scribblenauts Showdown preview – Hands-on with the wordy party puzzler for Switch

The Scribblenauts series has always been about finding creative solutions to seemingly simple puzzles – or just spawning Cthulu and watching him trash the place, if you so desire.

But Scribblenauts Showdown has taken that extensive library of objects and placed them in a four-player party game, with a focus on short, WarioWare-esque battles.

It doesn’t sound like it should work, but we managed to get our hands on it for a short time at Warner Bros’ UK headquarters, and can comfortably say that it delivers.

Spelling bee

The meat of Scribblenauts Showdown is in its Versus mode, where two players face off to complete a series of challenges.

There’s “Wordy” challenges and “Speedy” challenges to contend with, and you can create games with just one type of challenges ,or mix the two together to make things more interesting.

Speedy challenges are fairly straight-forward and would feel at home in any kind of party game, complete with motion controls so that anyone can play.

You’ll be playing tug-of-war, climbing ropes, pumping up balloons, hitting piñatas, and other such simple activities. It’s all fairly light and easy stuff, and you’ll breeze through Speedy rounds in a matter of seconds, as the name suggests.

Wordy challenges are where Scribblenauts shines, however. In these , you’re given either a theme or starting letter with which to make a word that will help you out in the next round.

For example, you’ll need to come up with a suitable weapon beginning with R, or you’ll have to pick something which you’ll find at a circus to feed hungry customers with, and so on.

Fastest fingers first

You have to race your opponent to spell the word out, with no duplicates allowed, and you can get serious bonuses for picking the right object, which can prove super helpful in the round.

Typing words is surprisingly easy. Instead of an enormous keyboard shoved at the bottom of the screen, you instead have a radial keyboard which uses a mixture of the thumb stick and each of the face buttons to spell out your words.

It does take a bit of getting used to, but when used in combination with the list of autocomplete suggestions that pop up, you’ll be throwing out words in no time.

Wordy rounds last a lot longer than Speedy challenges – you’ll either have a time limit or a set of lives, and if both players are at the top of their game, you can go for a couple of minutes before someone slips up.

These challenges definitely proved to be a favourite, but Speedy challenges provided a nice change of pace when thrown into the mix, so there’s definitely space for both in Versus.

The good old days

If competition isn’t your strong suit, there’s also co-operative play available in the Sandbox mode, where you’re presented with ten puzzles which you can solve in whatever order you like.

This feels a lot more like traditional Scribblenauts, with you spawning in whatever rubbish you want, attaching adjectives to your creations to make them big, angry, sympathetic, or whatever, and generally messing about to your heart’s content.

You can tackle it solo or with a second player, with two-player mode offering up split-screen play so each player can run around and wreak havoc on their own terms.

Sandbox definitely makes the entire package that bit more enticing – there’s something in here for you, even if you don’t have many friends to play with on the regular, and it perfectly captures the essence of the original Scribblenauts games.

There’s also a four-player mode called Showdown which we didn’t get the chance to look at, which involves a card-based board game peppered with mini-games, and for the first time in the series you can create your own character from a wide range of clothes and props.

Pencils down

All in all, Scribblenauts Showdown certainly looks like the complete package. Far from just a pared-down party version of the previous games, it takes the formula and tries something new, while still offering up plenty of content for returning fans.

There’s definitely some parts that you’ll favour more than others – Speedy challenges may grow tiresome in the long run for example, though we saw just a handful of them – but there’s plenty on offer to cater to all needs.

We may have only had a couple of hours to play it, but it’s definitely got us excited to check out the full game when it launches.