Originally released as an award-winning graphic novel, Scarygirl has been re-imagined as a side-scrolling adventure in a partnership between TIK Games and Square Enix. Set in a Tim Burton-esque world, our titular character has to fight her way through hordes of aggravated animals with the objective of finding out what has happened to the Tree of Knowledge. With her dreams haunted by images of a mysterious evil man, should you help Scarygirl on her adventure, or run far away and cower in a corner?
Atmospheric Pressure - Even if you ignore the character of Scarygirl, with her pirate outfit and tentacle arm, Scarygirl packs more into its visual design, atmosphere and sense of wonderment than the vast majority of games out there. As you guide Scarygirl through various environments, such as forests, caves, mountains and swamps, chances are small that you will see something here that you’ve already experienced in a different game world. Scarygirl has a style that is all its own, and I loved experiencing every second of it.
Nice To Know You - Scarygirl starts with an interaction between the title character, in her aforementioned attire, and a giant octopus that is responsible for both Scarygirl’s current appearance, and the building of her treehouse, where the interaction takes place. If this doesn’t really make much sense to you, that’s fine. I don’t really think it is supposed to. Just bear in mind that the rest of the game follows a similar suit, as you battle through the ‘Old Man Mountains’, where the air is as musty as an old persons’ home, and a cave full of baby yetis that pelt you with boulders. Scarygirl doesn’t make much sense, but when what you’re seeing is more entertaining, and full of more personality than most physical releases, it doesn’t have to.
Shake A Tentacle - One of the OCD-inducing elements of pre-open-world-structure-games that I certainly don’t miss is the inclusion of splitting paths, where you have to choose one and stick with it. For replayability, it works a treat, but it always left me wondering what I’d missed, rather than what I’d found. Scarygirl includes these splitting paths, as well as hidden gems, heart pieces and weeds to pull, to encourage you to go back and play through the game again once completed. You can also achieve high scores and various bonuses for performing certain actions, and even purchase hooks, moves and vinyl stickers from the wandering merchants.
MONSTERS IN THE CLOSET
2D Personality - For all the praise that I can give the atmosphere and visuals in Scarygirl, I feel that I can give the gameplay just as much criticism. Nothing new is really attempted with the standard 2D beat-em-up structure, and the platforming sequences are particularly weak, with Scarygirl frequently missing jumps that physics dictate she should make, and certain enemies’ attacks scoring hits even though graphically they missed her, sometimes by some distance. The worst sin of all, however, is that despite the sense of adventure inspired in players by the visuals, the gameplay is boring and bland.
Narrate This - Scarygirl aims for a creepy yet cute atmosphere, and for the majority of the game, aims true. One aspect which fell short for me, however, was the narration. Although not exactly prevalent throughout the game, every time the narrator popped up in loading screens and level breaks, I found myself groaning at his overly campy and monotonous delivery. Sure, this may have been intentional, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.
Scarygirl is one of those games that genuinely pains me to have to review, due to the fact that it pained me to have to play through. The art style is one of the best that I have seen in a game in a long time, but the gameplay is something I’ve seen too much of. For all the surprises Scarygirl offers in atmosphere, it also gives you clichéd platforming and beat-em-up mechanics. I really wanted to like Scarygirl as more than just an experience, but unfortunately I have to recommend that instead of playing the game, just read the graphic novel. You’ll get the awesome art style and atmosphere, without having to struggle through the tepid gameplay.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*