I’m not entirely sure how many people have heard about Scarygirl. I know I hadn’t before I jumped into this title and beyond the cover and description, I was going in completely blind. Honestly, I think I’m happier having done so – I didn’t have anything to compare the game to and had a completely fresh approach to it, unlike say reading Lord of the Rings and then seeing the movies. There is an entire line of toys, the graphic novel, and even a movie in development for Scarygirl, but until doing research after the fact I didn’t even know.
Based off of the graphic novel itself by Nathan Jurevicius, Scarygirl revolves around the titular girl. She is “scary,” if a girl with a tentacle arm, an eyepatch, an a hat with a skull on it is scary. She’s actually a quite cute and lovable girl who is somewhat alone save for her guardian and friend (who happens to be a giant, intelligent octopus) Blister. Blister does what he can for Scarygirl, but when her haunting dreams become too much he sends her out on her own to discover the meaning behind the mysterious figure that keeps appearing in her mind.
Coming from the generation I did, I spent most of my time with the early 2D platformers and Scarygirl follows in their wake. The base point of the game is to get from the starting point of the level to the ending point by going right. Comon though, this is 2012, of course they’ve added a few new things in this title for players. A neat aspect of Scarygirl that I really enjoyed were the branching paths. At points in levels you can see the path you can take split – one heads off into the distance (which you can see in the background, another fun aspect) while the other cuts closer to the camera. You’re able to pick and even try and go back to complete the other path for some extra items.
Scarygirl is also not without the ability to defend herself too. She starts off with light and heavy attacks with the use of her tentacle, the ability to grapple and throw enemies, and she can even hover around! She can even block incoming attacks with a shield bubble – think Super Smash Bros. – which is also useful since it can stun enemies from time to time. As players progress they will be able to gain more attacks and abilities through upgrades. It’s also possible to get different attachments to her tentacle that will improve certain abilities.
It’s a good thing Scarygirl can protect herself too – enemies litter every level and do their best to stop you in your quest for Dr. Maybee. There are only hedgehogs in the early levels (I swear they look more like half an oval with spikes and eyes), but later on you’ll be facing fire breathing beasts, bone-birds, and even crazier creatures in this world built on the stuff of dreams. The enemies varied enough that I didn’t get bored using the same tactics over and over and when I had multiple things to fight the game got a bit of a challenge going.
Much like the classic Mario, Scarygirl also has collectible items for players to snag while they trek through each level. There are rare hearts that will increase your overall health, fish to recover health, and varying diamonds that act as a form of currency. Those diamonds can be taken to an elephant/squid…thing and given to him in exchange of new abilities, different weapons (attachments), and vinyls. The only downside for the crystals and this shopkeeper is that from level to level your crystals seem to go “poof” and he doesn’t always make an appearance.
The graphics on this game were absolutely beautiful and for most of it I felt it was a claymation movie transposed onto a console and given more life. The environments range from dark and gloomy to bright and cheery. All of these environments are seemingly taken straight from a children’s book though, so picture a dark and gloomy that isn’t truly that dark or gloomy, but more or less a colorful and dark forest full of odd creatures. Even the enemies aren’t that scary looking – they look funny and they stand out in the environment. It’s in a good way of course, but it’s funny to see them sometimes.
I also really enjoyed how the game’s background is a detailed 3D environment and when the paths split you really see how the back path peters off into the distance while the front path bends around towards the camera. It’s a great addition to the “2D” platformer, and while it’s been around for a while I know, it works very well in Scarygirl.
Speaking of children’s book, the narrator sounds straight out of a child’s show. He has one of those perfect narrator voices – you could listen to him all day. It may not be Morgan Freeman, but damn if it isn’t a smooth voice that goes incredibly well with the way this game is styled. Going with this same voice acting, the other voices you’ll hear are well done and fit perfectly. Add in some good music and sound effects and you’ve got a neat little package.
The game is not without its faults however. Hit and collision detection can be an issue with enemies and it gets even worse when there are a group of them. Many times I found myself getting hit without having a chance to defend. This is especially a problem when the enemies come from the background – they can be visible before they actually jump up to the path, but even trying to dodge them can end in taking damage. There are also some problems with the grappling portion of the game due to targeting problems. Scarygirl can target enemies to grab and grapple hooks in the environment, but the targeting can fail easily or switch around very quickly and throw everything off. While it’s not as bad while fighting enemies, I have fallen to my death trying to grapple my way across chasms.
That’s not to say Scarygirl is a bad game – quite the opposite actually. I enjoyed the game and had a overall good time with it. The story is fun and interesting, and while I’ve not read or see the graphic novel, it seems like it translated over an electronic media very well. This is a game that a family can play together since the game boasts 2 player cooperative play, so perhaps a parent and child might have a blast with it – it really is a cute game. It’s got the classic platformer gaming with a few modern twists and a it’s at a great price point – why not give the dream-like world of Scarygirl a shot?
Note: The ScaryGirl review was written based on the PS3 version of the game provided by the publisher.