From the mind of Nathan Jurevicius comes Scarygirl. She's a little bit odd, has a mysterious past and lives in a tree house by the sea. Raised by an octopus, armed with a tentacle (instead of an arm) and a pirate patch over one eye, Scarygirl is an innocent who yearns for answers in a world that looks like it is straight out of a dream.
Originally a graphic novel and then a Flash game, Scarygirl has made its way to Xbox Live Arcade thanks to Square Enix and Tik Games. The home console version shares the same general story line as the graphic novel, reinterpreting places and locations as needed in order to ensure a solid gaming experience.
Gameplay-wise, Scarygirl is very reminiscent of old-school platform games. Expect to find plenty of running and jumping, as the environment can be just as much of a challenge as your opponents. Early levels are pretty straightforward, though the complexity quickly ramps up as you progress. There is always a basic path through a level, so you should never find yourself stuck; however, some of the better items are in out-of-the-way sections that will require speed and dexterity.
Some of the areas are designed with trial-and-error in mind. This can be mildly frustrating the first time you encounter such a place, but that is mitigated by the fact that continues are plentiful. You get bonus points (and an achievement) for making a perfect run on each level, so achievement hunters will want to keep their eyes open for that perfect path. Any previously completed level can be replayed at any time.
Much like the level design, enemies start out basic, but quickly ramp up in terms of challenge. You're forced to adapt your tactics as you progress, using a combination of attacking, blocking and counter attacks in order to successfully survive. Scarygirl's basic moves are surprisingly useful when used in a combo, even in the latter half of the game. In addition to the basics, advanced moves can be unlocked and purchased in the in-game store. These moves offer greater flexibility in combat.
Scarygirl can also purchase accessories for the end of her tentacle arm. These can be swapped out on the fly, and each offers a modified ability. For example, one allows Scarygirl to float longer while another increases the power of her attacks.
A single run through the world of Scarygirl can be accomplished in an evening. Unlocking everything and earning perfect ratings in all the levels is likely to take most gamers quite a bit longer. If you're a completionist, then replay value is definitely high here. The shorter levels are also an advantage for gamers who can't devote hours upon hours to a game. You can easily hop in, play for 15 minutes and knock out one of the levels.
Although the game is the story of Scarygirl's adventure, she doesn't need to step out on her own. While there is no Xbox Live play, Scarygirl supports two-player local co-op. Local play is drop-in/drop-out and doesn't impact the story. It's a nice option to have, especially since the second player can be used to assist in more ways than one. You can even have the primary player grab the second character to use as a weapon.
The strength of gameplay is a good chunk of Scarygirl's appeal, but a big part of the draw is also the game's look and feel. Visually, Scarygirl stands out amongst a flood of other titles due to its distinctive dream world. Both the world and the creatures look as though they would be right at home in a Tim Burton film or a Neil Gaiman graphic novel. It is exotic and disturbing all at once — nightmarish, yet not frightening. This is a game that you can toss on with a crowd around, and it is pretty much guaranteed to get approving comments due to the art direction.
Priced at 1,200 MSP ($15 USD), Scarygirl is on the high end of the impulse purchase range, but still worth the cost. It's one of those select titles that grabs your interest from the start and holds it through the end of the adventure.
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