The first time I ever heard about Scarygirl was when I first experienced the flash game that later was ported over to the Minis platform. I am a sucker for the Tim Burton-esque art style and found myself immediately interested in the world created by Nathan Jurevicius. It’s not entirely shocking that the Minis version of the game ended up rather terrible but knowing that there was a PSN game, one that looked much better than its Minis counterpart, on the horizon I remained optimistic. That optimism was slowly torn apart the more and more I played of Scarygirl until eventually I was ready to bang my head against my desk.
For what it’s worth Scarygirl makes an okay first impression. The graphical style from the graphic novel transfers over into 3D well enough. As you run left-to-right through the world and the level twists and curves around itself I was instantly reminded of my time spent playing Klonoa years ago. (Personally I have fond memories of that game so the fact that I was reminded of it seemed like a good thing to me.) Levels have you collecting gems to purchase upgrades, pulling out weeds to clear the path, fending off oncoming foes and platforming through forests, mountains, city streets and a handful of other areas. There’s a lot of variety in places that you’ll travel throughout the game presenting the feeling that you’re actually going on a grand adventure. The platforming itself is mostly fine it’s the combat system where Scarygirl’s flaws tend to show.
The combat system in Scarygirl is a bit deeper than one might expect. Scarygirl has a light and heavy attack as well as a grapple move. These can be used to pull off combos, juggle enemies into the air and, when more abilities are unlocked, unleash devastating attacks. The issue is of course that Scarygirl isn’t totally responsive and, with the exception of a few areas, you’ll never really need to use anything but your light attack. What’s worse is that the areas where combat strategy is actually required are the same areas where I found myself becoming overly frustrated with sudden spikes in difficulty and flat out bad design choices.
The first half of Scarygirl is a simplistic and fun little platforming game. However it’s around the halfway point where you’ll run into a boss called the Warmachine. This boss requires some simple pattern recognition to succeed. Just dodge oncoming missiles and when you’re in the clear attack his tongue. However throughout the battle you’ll find yourself constantly rolling and jumping out of the way of at least a handful of missiles and homing rockets. There’s very little time to actually try to deal damage to the boss and Scarygirl’s lack of responsiveness makes avoiding the missiles a pain in the butt and much more frustrating than it needs to be. Not long after that the game introduces a blue guard enemy that nearly ruined the game for me. If you attack a guard up close they’ll block your attack and for some unknown reason you’ll quickily start to lose health. You can try to juggle the guards which works well enough but because you’ll always be facing more than one at a time it won’t take long for a guard to use it’s spear to poke Scarygirl. The only method I found that seemed somewhat effective against them was standing far back and using a combo that summoned tentacles up from the ground. This wasn’t even a surefire method as the guards have a very long reach with their weapon and will likely slap you before you manage to pull off the combo. At times I found myself having to go up against six to seven of these guards at a time and each time was left even more frustrated than the last.
This tends to go hand in hand with the varying level of quality from the game’s checkpoints. Sometimes checkpoints will be placed insanely close to each other while in other instances you’ll go through nearly the whole level without a checkpoint in sight. One such level finds Scarygirl on an airship fighting off waves of enemies with only a single checkpoint and death more often than not taking you back to the beginning of the level. On top of that there was one such instance where a checkpoint was placed next to a very busy street. Cars were flying by on the street and being hit by one result in instant death. I spawned at this checkpoint and before gaining control was immediately hit and knocked back a few feet straight into a car. This happened three consecutive times before I managed to get lucky and roll out of the way right after respawning.
Before running up against a crazy difficulty spike the only real complaint I had about the game came down to some camera issues. The camera is constantly wanting to shift views and change orientation to the point where it quickly becomes disorienting. There’s way too many scenarios where I just didn’t know where I was jumping to or what I was doing because of the camera. The game also features forked paths which also tend to play up the fact that the camera never likes to stay in one place.
Local coop is featured in the game with the second player taking control of Scarygirl’s friend Bunniguru. He has a few different moves from Scarygirl but is unable to unlock trophies or purchase upgrades from the shop. Mostly the second player serves as assistance to Scarygirl and will likely fall off screen a lot as the camera likes to keep its attention focused solely on Scarygirl. It’s nice that it’s there but doesn’t really add or take anything away from the overall game itself.
Aside from the difficulty spike towards the end, Scarygirl could be a fun little platformer. The story seems to follow the graphic novel pretty well with everything being told during loading screens between levels and if nothing else the music and art style will likely leave a good impression on you.
With the game failing at being anything more than mediocre I don’t think I can really muster up any sort of excitement about future Scarygirl endeavors. (I guess it goes without saying that the ending leaves things open for more Scarygirl in the future.) While most of the platforming tends to be good, it’s the unresponsive controls and cheap combat that ruined this one for me. After two mediocre attempts at a game I think it’d probably be best to just stick to reading the graphic novel if you’re really that interested.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- I really like the art style.
- Music isn't memorable but it's catchy enough to just be pleasant.
What I Dislike:
- Unresponsive controls
- Random difficulty spike leading to overly cheap enemies.
- Inconsistent camera