Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, January 27th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/Scarygirl/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Based on the graphic novel by Nathan Jurevicius, the sensational art style of Scarygirl found its way into a flash game and is now available as a downloadable title on the Playstation Network and Xbox LIVE. Developed by TikGames and published by Square Enix, it's a 2D action platformer with a taste for weirdness and distorted reality akin to an acid trip.
Scarygirl mysteriously washes up on a beach where her guardian Blister -- a giant octopus who teaches her many valuable life lessons -- takes her into his care. Scarygirl has a hook for a hand attached to a tentacle like arm which allows her to grab things as well as attack enemies. Unfortunately Scarygirl is constantly dreaming of a mysterious figure known as Dr. Maybe, and she decides to set off on a quest to end the dreams once and for all.
While the beginning levels are fairly simple, later stages ramp up the difficulty by adding more timed jumps, tougher boss battles, and bad guys who slip in cheap shots while you're trying to finish up a combo. The frustration does increase significantly, but anyone with basic platforming experience should be able to navigate through the challenges with some minor practice and a whole lot of patience.
The controls are very simply jump, grapple, light attack, and heavy attack. Holding the jump button allows you to whip your arm like a helicopter propeller and hang in the air for a bit. This helps tremendously when you're traversing wide gaps.
There's variety in that you can purchase upgrades or new attacks with collected crystals: you can upgrade your arm with a feather which allows you to hover longer, for example, or buy an anchor which provides heavier but slower attacks, and a fan for lighter but faster attacks. Combo upgrades to can be purchased as well, and even vinyl stickers of enemies which you can view while in your room at the main menu.
Drop in and drop out local co-op play helps to round out the experience. While it was a bit tough for my younger children to play, the nine year old was able to do so with little worries until the later rounds. I was a little jealous of the second player's character which is Bunniguru, a rabbit with a penchant for kung fu. His attacks are fast and furious, though he lacks the ability to grab items or enemies.
The visuals remind me a lot of Littlebigplanet, and are very colorful in their presentation. The graphics are crisp, and the artwork puts a unique twist on backgrounds which would otherwise be dull. Dark forests come to life with vibrant blues and pinks, while underwater caverns pop with neon colors to light the way.
The music adds whimsical sense to the overall feel of Scarygirl. When you collect crystals, they chime in such a way as to blend in with the background music, creating the illusion you're contributing to the musical piece. As much as I enjoyed the music, in the end I found it to be slightly annoying, thanks to the endless looping.
As beautiful as the levels are, they lack quite a bit of imagination in the overall layout. Most of them are pretty straight forward, with a handful allowing you to branch off and go down a different path which eventually puts you back on the normal path anyway. Unfortunately, there isn't anything really to explore in the world of Scarygirl.
Even if the levels did offer more for the player to do, some of the unbalanced enemies in the later stages make it difficult to enjoy. Being gang raped by guards with spears who have a longer reach than Scarygirl really annoyed the hell out of me. Instead of using normal attacks, I had to use special combos in order to slowly take them down. As long as they didn't interrupt my combo, it was more of a nuisance than anything; if they did get a hit in during my button mashing, I would have to start from scratch, causing me to curse at the game (which happened quite frequently).
During the underwater level I had a lot of problems with the squid boss. For whatever reason, no matter what I tried, he would kill me. I still have no idea how I beat him, but button mashing seemed to do the trick. Unfortunately the poor level design and unbalanced enemies compound to deliver a mediocre and generic platform experience.
There's not much personality to be found in Scarygirl. There's definitely an interesting group of characters to be had, but they all lack the charming qualities found in other platforming favorites. The story itself is just as odd as the characters, and there's quite a few holes left for players to guess as to the nature of how everything ties together. Perhaps reading the graphic novel would shed some light on what is going on -- fans may understand the overall bigger picture immediately, while newcomers will just end up playing a very odd game with very little understanding of what it is they're experiencing.
Scarygirl is a fantastic mash-up of quirky and horror elements, set in an eccentric landscape filled to the brim with imagination. What it does lack is a solid direction in the level layouts. Creating gorgeous scenery is only part of the overall picture when creating a platforming game. While the controls are fine and the jumping is okay, you will quickly get tired of the wishy-washy level designs, lack of character development, and poor enemy balancing . Still, with six to eight hours of gameplay it is at least worth checking out for the visuals, if nothing else.
Please do not redistribute or use this article in whole, or in part, for commercial purposes.