Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure


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Xbox Review - 'Scaler'

by Nathan Mourfield on Nov. 9, 2004 @ 3:42 a.m. PST

Genre: Action/Platform
Publisher: Global Star Software
Developer: A2M
Release Date: October 20, 2004

I have played some strange games in my life. For example, I played Infacide, an Apple II GS game with premise of Frogger, only with babies instead of frogs. I have played the Southpark shooter, a game were the alt fire mode for the snowball involves yellow snow. Scaler, while not on the scale of Infacide or Southpark, is an intrinsically strange game.

The plot for Scaler is that a kid is transformed into a lizard and teleported to an alternate dimension where he must fight against a grand plot devised by people from his world, who, in reality, are walking-talking lizards. This grand plot is to take giant lizard eggs from our dimension, warp them into great monsters, and then clone the monsters to a significant number to take over the multiverse by force. Did I mention the fact that the kid is a well known lizard rights activist, whose father has left him when he was young? I try not to think about the plot or storyline too much. This is the type of jacked up content that society tries to peddle to 8-year-old kids. I wonder if they realize that my 8-year-old nephew is reading the Lord of the Rings right now.

In the terms of graphics, this game is amazing. It is done in the brilliant technicolor of modern cartoons, with vibrant shading and effects. Character design has a heavy influence of Dr. Seuss, showing the organic lines of the famous children's artist. I would occasionally experience visual tearing when the image moved quickly on the screen, and the image has a habit of moving very quickly in this game. In addition, the camera can be an issue in this game, which suffers from poor positioning at times. The speed of the movement in the game with the poor positioning of the camera can combine to make a player very nauseous.

The hardest perception problem with the graphics is the crawl paths in the game. Scaler takes his sharp claws and crawls across these complex paths that twist all around the map. Moving at a quick speed can really mess with the player's eyes since Scaler is crawling upside down in some sections of the game, with the path twisting like an old barbershop pole.

The audio portion of the game is less spectacular than the graphics. There is no hard driving music, catchy tunes, or such. The audio acting is clear and relays the necessary information without being distracting, but the script does have the bent towards a 10-year-old mentality.

The controls of this game were simplistic in layout, primarily focusing on the thumbsticks and buttons to control the game. This is good, due to the severe speed of this game which makes the player's fingers feel like they just tangoed for several hours. When Scaler changes forms, the controls do shift in function. This can lead to some confusion, but they tried to make it easier by having common buttons between similar functions. Therefore, the jump button is always the A button on the Xbox controller.

The level design is confusing at times, with twisting vines and platforms, but the further in the game the player progresses, the more linear the levels get in their playability. This means that there are fewer instances of a player having to backtrack through an area after accomplishing one task in order to accomplish another. There was also a huge variation on the levels themselves; one level might be a standard explore and jump exercise while the other was just a boss character fight. One level might involve a desperate flight on a strange pterodactyl creature while another is a series of races in a strange ball creature form. Most levels can be explored completely, and there are points in the game where the player can skip from one level to another. In addition, when a level is complete, the player can always come back to it to play around.

Several features to the game seem to be bolted on, like the upgrade system and the gallery section. The upgrade system requires the player to gather energy found throughout a level or by defeating creatures. By giving this energy to the pterodactyl, the player gains some type of upgrade like the stealth ability or an extra health level. The pterodactyl eats the energy and then throws up on Scaler to give him the upgrade, very classy. The gallery section has subsections unlocked by collecting 10 crystals on 10 of the levels in the game. All of these extra features give the feeling that this game has been gold plated, which is when a developer takes a functioning application and starts adding all sorts of extra features to make it neat. This can lead to an exceptionally unwieldy application, since many of the features have not been fully thought-out.

One of the biggest issues with this game is the common sense factor, meaning that the common sense of a person starts to balk at some of the things expected in the game. An example of this is the fact that the character has to travel, on foot mostly, through complex mazes and deadly enemies to get an egg sitting out in the open. Did not Scaler arrive at these levels on a giant flying lizard? Why not fly to the egg and just pick it up? (Because the game would be about 20 minutes long.) These are questions game designers need to ask themselves.

When all of the challenges of the game are complete, the replayability factor of Scaler is zilch to none. There is no other variation of this game or a multiplayer mode, just the single player campaign. Considering this game is very affordably priced for an Xbox game (about 20 dollars), this is not that painful, but the game would still be better as a rental.

Considering the problems that this game has and the fact it has hardly any replayability, I find it hard to recommend this game to any adult player although with its low price and “Everyone” rating, it could easily be a cheap gift to a 10-12 year old for the holiday season, but I wouldn’t go further beyond that. If some of the features were left off and others better developed, this would have been a great action title for the younger gamer set. This title has the feel that the developer tried to create an impressive sounding list of features, but was inattentive in the implementation of those features.

Score: 6.0/10

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