January 26, 2012
Players take control of Scarygirl, an abandoned child who is promptly rescued from certain doom by a friendly octopus - yes, a friendly octopus. Alongside a mysterious, all-knowing rabbit, Scarygirl sets off to uncover the source of many recent deaths throughout her world and to reveal a strange figure from her dreams.
This initial setup amounts to very little when all is said and done, which is a disappointment considering the colourful cast of characters which inhabit the world of Scarygirl. Plot points are primarily delivered through brief narrated segments in between levels that fail to get you invested in the journey and it feels like a missed opportunity.
Scarygirl's core gameplay doesn't fare much better either. It's a 2D, side-scrolling platformer, one that boils down to a mostly competent execution of the genre's basic mechanics - collecting items, timed jumping, generally traversing the environment and so on. The one exception being the somewhat loose controls, which become especially frustrating as the difficulty is ramped up during the game's latter half. Beyond platforming, a simple combination of melee combos and enemy types make up Scarygirl's combat segments. Regardless of what you're doing, Scarygirl's gameplay simply lacks the personality and uniqueness to compliment its art direction.
While the controls make the game frustrating as it progresses, there also isn't a whole lot of development either.
Presentation in Scarygirl is comprised of detailed environments and shifting camera perspectives that make the experience stand out - it's by far the best aspect of the game. The 2.5D design and patchwork, cartoon-ish art style is somewhat reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet's professionally-crafted levels. Scarygirl makes clever use of the foreground, background and a constantly-shifting 2D plane to create the illusion of depth in its environments. Enemies will frequently pop out of the scenery to catch you by surprise and distant paths can be seen in the background, which are nice touches.
More importantly, the changing perspectives create some visually striking situations. However, this depth also results in objects routinely obscuring your vision from the foreground, an unnecessary annoyance. Simply put: Scarygirl lives and dies by its unique presentation and this shouldn't be the case. There should be some substance behind the eye candy.
Alongside its 21 levels, which makes for a campaign that's roughly 5-6 hours long, Scarygirl allows players to have a friend join the fray seamlessly during play. While co-operative functionality is offline only, which feels like a missed opportunity, it's a welcome addition nonetheless. The fact it's drop-in is a massive bonus. That being said, Scarygirl's mundane combat and platforming will make extending the experience an undesirable thought for all but the most obsessive completionists.
Scarygirl is an action platformer that lives and dies by its distinctive visual presentation. The detailed and varied environments add a certain degree of personality to TikGames' offering. Beyond that, the experience is at best competent, and at worst, needlessly frustrating. Dull combat, generic platforming and somewhat loose controls round out a game which, when all is said and done, is difficult to recommend.
Scarygirl was reviewed on the Xbox Live Arcade. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.