Platformers, while not the juggernaut they used to be, have been going through a little revival over the final few months of 2011. With Super Mario 3D Land and Rayman Origins both showing that the genre can still be relevant, and in very different ways. So I came to Scarygirl with the hope that this trend would continue… so it was a little disappointing to find that after only a couple of hours I was already pining for my 3DS.
The story of Scarygirl is an interesting one; you play the titular Scarygirl who is rescued by a land octopus with a moustache who then goes to the bottom of the sea to find you some clothes and brings you back a pirate costume and a hook. Also, you have a tentacle for an arm. The inspiration for all this madness is a graphic novel by an Australian fellow named Nathan Jurevicious, and he was in turn seemingly inspired by the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman, and it’s the visual styling of the game where it really stands out from the pack. Transferring any flat image into a 3D model is always a tricky business, often leading to losing what makes the character special in the first place; and this can be an even trickier process when you have to work with designs that are as unique as Jurevicious’. So great credit should be passed onto TikGames for managing to capture the spirit of the comic and create a world around it. Unfortunately the graphic style they use is also one of the massive downfalls for the game.
For the most part, you’ll be running left to right while battling the various enemies that have fallen out of Nathan Jurevicious’ mind. The world also twists and turns in and around and around the screen, which in and of itself is fine, the problem arises however when the designers added an extra layer of scenery in front of the action. More often than not this leads to your vision being blocked as you trot along, invariably when you’re in the middles of a fracas. It’s such an obvious thing, that I’m surprised it made it into the game; how this wasn’t picked up during development is beyond me as it can really detract from the action on screen.
TikGames tried to mix things up with the combat in Scarygirl. Instead of the traditional platforming tropes of jumping on everyone’s heads, you are tasked with battling enemies using you hook and tentacle while mixing it up with a few basic combos. All the while you can collect gems that are littered throughout the level that allow you to purchase upgrades for all your abilities. You can add the usual bonuses, such hitting a little bit harder and jumping a little further, but there are also a couple of nice additions where you can turn enemies into tornados or squish them and use them to boost your energy. The problem with this lies in the fact that none of it really feels like worthwhile additions; every time you hit an enemy, a number floats away from their head ala Borderlands, but with no real context to it, it just feels tacked on and doesn’t really add anything to combat.
Last on my list of niggles is actually controlling Scarygirl as the controls just feel a little too loose. The running and jumping for the most part is never overly precise, but even on some of the simple leaps of faith are made trickier by the fact that you can’t rely on Scarygirl doing exactly what you want. On a number of occasions she even carried on walking after I took my thumb off the sticks, and that kind of thing in a platformer (or any game to be honest) is simply unacceptable.
So when it comes down to it, Scargirly ends up being mostly style over substance, which is very frustrating as the style is so very impressive (I’ll be looking to pick up the graphic novel come next payday), whereas with a little more polish the other issues could have been ironed out relatively simply.