Games Review: Scribblenauts Showdown (PS4, 2018): Eat, Fish and Dance Dance Your Way To Victory

Scribblenauts Showdown would best be described as a party game, taking inspiration and gameplay from a range of titles like Mario Party, Dance Dance Revolution, Angry Birds and Diner Dash. The action takes place in a variety of fun modes, including Sandbox, Showdown and Versus modes, each of which features a variety of fun activities.

Sandbox mode is more akin to traditional Scribblenauts gameplay, with a range of locations to explore and create in. These include an ocean liner, Mayan ruins, a forbidden city and a passenger train. Within these worlds, you can uncover hidden ‘starites’ by completing quests and solving challenges. This provides a fun and relaxing alternative to the main gameplay mode, Showdown.

Showdown Mode plays out rather like a round of Mario Party – players find themselves on a game board with a handful of minigame and instant action cards. Action cards allow you to move along the board or send rival players back, while minigame cards kickstart a series of games that can gain you movement points across the board. As is usual, the first player across the finish line wins. These games can be undertaken as 15, 30 or 45 minute rounds, and with as many as four local players (sharing two controllers). The ability to play local co-op is refreshing, and Showdown mode makes for some great family fun.

Each turn players take has the possibility of activating a range of frantic minigames, including a fishing minigame, a Dance Dance emulation, compact versions of Flappy Bird and Angry Birds, as well as games inspired by Diner Dash and Windjammers.

My personal favourite turned out to be Medieval Mayhem, where two players choose weapons beginning with a certain letter and must duke it out to defeat the other. This minigame was a ‘wordy’ game, meaning that players must input their own choices in order to better affect their chances at winning. I was tasked with finding the most powerful weapon beginning with ‘P’ and in my haste, I selected something called a ‘piragua’, under the assumption it must be some kind of deadly sword.

Instead, it turned out to be a snow cone, and my opponent, armed with a much more deadly pool cue, ended up defeating me easily. All I could do was throw my completely useless snowcone in their face. It was shameful.

In my time with the game, I was able to play through the majority of minigames available, and was slightly disappointed to discover a decided lack of depth when it came to the activities available. While initially Scribblenauts Showdown was wicked fun, once the novelty of the few minigames available wears off, it’s not nearly as exciting. In total, there were about 25 games to play through, each with their own quirks and sensibilities. Some of them were more fun than others, and with an adjustable difficulty level, some present a real challenge for players.

Unfortunately, there are also some ‘speedy’ minigames that feel unecessary. These games feature rapid action such as chopping a tree down, pumping a balloon or hitting a piñata faster than your opponent. These games require little skill and instead lead to frantic button mashing and minor panic. Each of these games are easily won, and provide little sense of success or enjoyment.

After the first few hours, the game does become repetitive, and I found myself wishing for more of the classic Scribblenauts gameplay found in Sandbox mode the longer I played. As an experiment, Scribblenauts Showdown should be commended, as the first hours are truly fun and they change up the Scribblenauts formula enough to be enjoyable and unique.

The title is a great, adventurous departure from the whimsical and imaginative games of the main series, and despite its lack of depth, it still retains Scribblenauts’ classic cutesy charm and appeal. The first few hours provide some great moments with a range of well-designed modes and party games, but overall, Showdown could benefit from a wider range of content.

Showdown Mode is particularly good fun, and a bright spot in a repetitive game, but for those looking for any depth of gameplay, you won’t find it here. Overall, the experience is somewhat shallow, but for the first few hours, Scribblenauts Showdown is a genuine and unique delight.

Review Score: 7.5/10
Highlights: Great fun minigames, range of modes
Lowlights: Lack of depth, repetitive gameplay
Developer: Shiver Entertainment
Publisher: WB Games
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro with a retail code provided by the publisher.