Scarygirl

Scarygirl_Box_Art
7.5 Overall Score

Unique, quirky style | Great platforming

Awkward combat | Co-op play feels tacked on

Written by on January 23, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

 

I’ve got a confession to make. As big a comic geek as I am, I’d never heard of Scarygirl before. Created back in 2001 by artist Nathan Jurevicius, the Scarygirl brand has built a cult following and spawned a popular graphic novel, toys, and clothes. Now Scarygirl is breaking out onto consoles with a new downloadable platform game, courtesy of the folks at TikGames and Square-Enix.

Scarygirl tells the story of a strange girl abandoned late one night, where she’s eventually found by Blister, a super-intelligent octopus who takes the child under his wing … err, tentacle … and raises her as his own. Haunted by recurring nightmares of a mysterious man, Scarygirl stumbles across Bunniguru, a Zen-like rabbit who’s never short on cryptic advice. So, after talking things over with a Zen bunny and the super-smart octopus, our eye-patch wearing, hook-handed, tentacle armed heroine sets out to the Tree of Knowledge to uncover the mysteries of her past and possible save the world while she’s at it. Seriously guys, I can’t make this stuff up. This makes The Nightmare Before Christmas seem normal by comparison.

As weird as the story may seem, it’s this surreal backdrop that makes Scarygirl such a fascinating title. The world looks like something Tim Burton would have dreamed up after a weekend-long bender. It truly looks like you’re playing a dream. The game manages to create an eerie atmosphere without getting muddled in a sea of blacks and greys. Scarygirl certainly doesn’t lack style, and the game is one of the better looking XBLA games I’ve seen in recent time.

As far as the game’s platforming elements go, Scarygirl runs, jumps, swings, and even hovers across the landscape with a fluidity that’s hard to believe. The controls are forgiving in this regard too, as you rarely need to hit that perfect jump to progress. Scarygirl’s platforming does a great job of never feeling like it’s “too hard” to play or “too easy” to be worth playing. And if the game was all about platforming, that would be great. Unfortunately, that’s where the combat comes in.

Apparently, someone somewhere must have decided that you can’t have a good video game without beating up some baddies. Scarygirl is no exception to this. The problem is, the combat in the game isn’t anything to write home about. It’s basically a button mashing mess. Sure, things are simple (and repetitive) enough with basic attacks. But when Scarygirl starts to try more advanced moves, like grabbing stunned enemies with her tentacle arm and tossing them around, things just sort of fall apart. No matter how long I played, it never felt natural to me, and instead just served to break up the smoothness of the rest of the experience.

Another place that Scarygirl feels a bit like an octopus out of water is its multiplayer co-op mode. A second player can jump into the action as Bunniguru, backing up Scarygirl with his own unique set of martial arts moves. The problem here is that the second player is also playing second banana. The camera always centers solely on Scarygirl, leaving the second player to feel like little more than an afterthought. It’s a shame too, because at times (particularly in those combat heavy stints of the game), I had a lot more fun playing as Bunniguru.

Despite a couple of stumbling blocks, Scarygirl is still entertaining. Its quirky characters and surreal style are a treat to watch. The bulk of the gameplay is smooth and balanced, and its drop-in/drop-out multiplayer lets you share the experience with friends … even if they’ll never take the spotlight. At the end of the day, Scarygirl is one part Mario Bros., two parts Addams Family, and all parts fun.

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Author: David Chapman View all posts by

One Comment on "Scarygirl"

  1. Marcia webb January 23, 2012 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Nice write up! I like the screen shots and might actually try this one out.

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