Written by Brock Poulsen, brockst4r Monday, 30 January 2012 06:00
TikGames recently released Scarygirl as a downloadable title for the PlayStation Network and XBox Live. It sells for $9.99 and packs a big punch for such a little girl.
Nathan Jurevicious, creator of Scarygirl, tells a story as old as time itself: a monster octopus adopts a tentacle-armed orphan girl, then the orphan girl meets a philosopher rabbit who sends her on a quest that promises the answers to her mysterious recurring dreams. On her journey she encounters, among other things, ghost-octopi dressed like people and hallucinogenic onions. It's that old chestnut.
Scarygirl's world is slightly Tim Burton, a little bit Emily the Strange visiting Wonderland, and packed with character that is all its own. It's visually beautiful, stuffed to the gills with impressive little details in the back- and foreground. As odd as it sounds, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I found out that the game was originally built as a custom level in LittleBigPlanet 2. It has a vaguely reminiscent visual style and shares some design elements, like the floating in-game text. Many of the levels have branching paths and hard-to-reach secret areas, so there is a good potential for replaying previous levels and exploration.
The game strikes a good balance between its Hot Topic appearance and a great deal of lighthearted fun. There are some legitimately creepy bad guys to fight and combat moves that are slightly morbid (like the one that sees Scarygirl crushing an enemy with her tentacle arm and turning it into health). But you'll also meet a toy cat named Toycat and head to a bad city called Bad City.
I had an interesting experience when fighting Mama Yeti, one of the first bosses. I was having a hard time identifying any sort of pattern or weakness, and went online to find the secret to defeating her. I discovered that by harming her yeti babies, she woud react by causing boulders to fall. If I waited for her to get in the right position, she would get hit by the falling boulders. I know I'm overthinking this, but using her protective motherly instincts to defeat her makes me slightly uncomfortable. I've seen in games before where "defeating" a mother-type boss involves rescuing the babies or returing them to safety, and I think it would have been interesting to see something like that instead.
The controls felt imprecise at first, but after a little bit of practice jumping and attacking become very intuitive. Blending jumps, combos, grapples, and slams becomes surprisingly deep for a game that at first appears very simple. There is a good distribution of fairly tough platforming interspersed with challenging combat. There are some frustrating sections that required several tries to pass, but nothing that felt terribly unfair or poorly designed.
I enjoyed Scarygirl a great deal, and even my wife appreciated its art style and whimsical story. At $10 it's a fine little game with single player and co-op modes to keep you entertained.