Review – Scarygirl

Review Scarygirl
Scarygirl is a new downloadable title based on a Flash game, in-turn based on a graphic novel. I’m not that familiar with either, but a few levels into the game prompted a startling realization – Scarygirl reminds me a lot of another game I’ve been playing recently. That game, for the curious, is Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

How are the two games similar?

Let me count the ways…


Review Scarygirl
-A visually striking 2D platformer with 2 player co-op? Check.

-Presentation framed around a man reading a storybook? Check.

-Protagonist equipped with a whip-like weapon used to lasso enemies into spheres that can then be tossed at other things – as well as being used to grapple and swing from hooks? Check.

That isn’t to say that this game is simply Epic Yarn starring a decomposing octopus girl. The combat system, while not more refined, is much deeper. Also, it is possible to die in Scarygirl, and it is possible to die a lot.

Therein lies the most noticeable mechanical difference between Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Scarygirl; while the former wants you to make it to the end of the game with little effort and explore arts and crafts projects they call levels with minimal consequence, the latter starts out with a similar philosophy, but at some point decides that it instead wants to see how much crap you’ll put up with for a chance to get a glimpse at the next colorfully macabre landscape.

Review Scarygirl
Granted, Scarygirl presents a series of beautiful landscapes – the kind you wouldn’t expect to find in a downloadable title. For the sake of comparison, I took a peek at the game’s 2D source material, and I was amazed at how well the developer was able to add an extra dimension to that work within the game.

Sadly, Scarygirl suffers from a problem shared by many pretty games; the graphics often get in the way of the gameplay. On many an occasion, objects in the foreground will completely block a generous portion of the screen, leaving you blindly mashing the attack buttons, hoping you’re hitting whatever enemies are hiding behind them.

Blindly mashing the attack buttons, by the way, is a perfectly viable way to get through most of the game, whether or not you can see the enemies, but I’ll elaborate more on that later.

Review Scarygirl
Sound is a curious and mixed bag deserving attention here, varying between good, serviceable, and entirely non-existent. When the game begins and players are collecting mass quantities of gems, the action sounds like you’re running your fingers across a wind chime – a cool effect that supplements the ambiance of the game.

The narrator also has a generous portion of gravitas, spending the time it takes for the game to load to further the story in a pleasantly organic way. Unfortunately, the further you make it into the game (nine words that could begin many statements about Scarygirl), the more objects you encounter that are inexplicably silent in the play and interaction.

When you’re fighting a giant mechanical dragon for instance, and it approaches you to shoot flames in your direction, you’d expect those flames to make some sort of roaring and/or crackling sound, not a silent and/or nonexistent sound.

There are also a few airships with huge cannons that are apparently enchanted by some sort of sound-cloaking spell, because when it fires said cannons, which shoot out balls twice the size of Scarygirl, they make not so much as a peep. Also, I have no idea what an axe getting reflected by a force field sounds like, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not total silence.

All in all, Scarygirl is a game that confuses the ears.

Review Scarygirl
For the most part the platforming in Scarygirl is competent, but it has its hiccups, particularly when navigating the game’s ubiquitous rotating platforms; if you land on a platform while it’s rotating, the game has a really hard time deciding whether or not you actually landed on it. There are also moments where you’ll really lament the fact that no matter how hard you press the jump button, Scarygirl will always jump the same height, especially in some of the later parts of the game where if you jump too high YOU WILL IMMEDIATELY DIE.

Fighting the bad guys in Scarygirl is an experience that starts out similarly tolerable, if not somewhat delightful; the tentacled protagonist has a series of combos of light and heavy attacks at her disposal, and can buy more of them using the gems collected throughout the game.

Review Scarygirl
However, that potential is undermined and essentially tossed into the dustbin given that, for the most part, players can just mash the two attack buttons and kill anything; the only motivation you have to not do that is that Scarygirl is able to use near-dead enemies as weapons by grappling them. Unfortunately, unless you know the precise number of hit points an enemy has, and are meticulously counting the numbers flying off of their heads, you will more than likely kill the enemies mid-combo.

And when the game flips the switch from a “fun little button masher” to “frustrating fights with those damn blue guards armed with poles and swords twice as long as your reach,” you’re going to need to grapple as many enemies as you can, leaving you chipping away at half-beaten enemies with light attacks until the purple grapple icon shows up, giving you the “OK” to do so – a terrible strategy when there are TWO OR THREE MORE DAMN DIRTY BLUE GUARDS BEHIND IT WHO CAN REACH YOU FROM BEHIND THE STUNNED ONE.

Sorry, I just had to vent – there’s this one level near the end where the game just drops a crapload of some of the strongest enemies onto this small flat surface, and you fight them 3-9 at a time, and after you die on that a couple dozen times, the game just stops being fun. That being said, there are difficult enemies in this game that are actually pretty interesting to fight – particularly the bosses, who each have a unique weakness that you have to figure out, rendering them stunned and ready for an open can of button-mashing.

Review Scarygirl
In addition to the several hours of gameplay that you’ll experience going through the game the first time, there is some replay value to be had. Several of the levels split off in multiple directions, adding some variety for revisits. Counter-intuitively, there are also bonuses to be had for accomplishing certain feats in each level, such as finding every gem, and if you want to do that, you’ll probably have to take both paths each stage offers. There’s also an online leaderboard, if you want to show off your combination of sick fighting skills and obsessive gem collecting.

Maybe in the end, this game isn’t that much like Kirby’s Epic yarn after all. Scarygirl is like a rainbow puppy making stool on your carpet; you want to get angry at it because it’s so hard to control, but then you see its adorable eyes and colorful coat, and can’t stay mad at it for too long.

Also, the puppy is missing one arm and has a tentacle for the other.

Also, I am not good at similes.


Developer
TikGames

Publisher
Square-Enix

System
PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade) (Xbox LIVE Arcade Reviewed)

Modes
Singleplayer, Local Co-op

Release Date
January 18th, 2012 (Xbox LIVE Arcade) / January 24th, 2012 (PlayStation Network)

Price
$9.99, 800 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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