Scarygirl Looks Good, Plays Average
Apparently Scarygirl is some kind of Internet phenomena from Nathan Jurevicius that has spawned an entire industry. I mainly checked it out because I thought the look was unique and I wanted to see if a traditional 2D platformer could distinguish itself in this generation of gaming. While I don't think the game broke any new ground in the genre, fans of the story will probably enjoy this (well, until the difficulty spikes unexpectedly).
Presentation: The best part of this game is certainly the design. Both characters and levels are given what can only be described as a Tim Burton-esque twist. The main character is a tentacle-armed, eyepatch-wearing, stitch-mouthed girl who brings up images of the goth kid everyone kind of avoided - but is still darn cute as a button with her pirate attire. Levels range from forest to city with mountains, dark caves, sewers and even an underwater level between. The enemies are just as varied with mad, red goats, dive-bombing skeleton vultures, yetis, sewer rates, hair-clump spiders, electric eels and weird blue guards who might make you pull your hair out (or at least throw down your controller). While it doesn't look as crisp as a disc-based game, for PSN, the design is excellent and the main draw for purchase.
Story: I'm not sure if this follows a graphic novel or is original, but Scarygirl has increasingly bad nightmare featuring the same man and decides to track him down. Her friend/guardian (an octopus named Blister) finds some leaves that lead her to begin at Owl Forest and from there she scales mountains, braves icy caves, stinky swamp and thieves - pummeling anyone who gets in her way. Of course, her journey takes a turn when she discovers a massive tree that is in danger of dying as its spirit protector has been stolen. This leads Scarygirl to not only track down the mysterious man, but gives her a choice at the end to decide the fate of herself and, by extension, her entire world. A narrator breaks down the story between chapters - which is a nice touch, though does get old if you repeat levels. All-in-all, the story takes back seat to the visual impact the game has.
Gameplay: Typical 2D platformer - you have your basic attacks (light and heavy) you can throw enemies, use your tentacle arm as a kind of hookshot or helicopter to fly around, have a temporary shield you can block with and a rage meter you can max out and transform into an unstoppable beast (for a short time). Although you unlock attacks through the store - I mostly stuck with the basic attacks. Most levels you can choose to avoid combat altogether if you choose - other than a few doors you must unlock to proceed, boss battles (and one hellish scrolling airship level) - combat is entirely optional.
There are, of course, collectibles - each level has gems (used to buy things in the shop, including moves, new attachments and vinyl collectibles for your shelf) you can collect, black weeds to pull and, should you find them all (and complete the level without dying) you get a "perfection" bonus. While the early levels are almost pathetically easy, about level 3, it starts to ramp up. The hair spider caves are a nightmare, and the airship level was even worse - if you're getting this game for your kids, prepare for some anger because even I had difficulty at times. Certain attachments you get do make life easier - a feather makes you fly longer and further, a fish gives your swimming a boost and the magnet makes gem collecting much easier. Each on is vital if you want to collect all the gems in each level.
I found overall combat to be pretty easy - though throwing enemies at targets is a major pain. Luckily, that doesn't happen too often. Boss battles weren't that bad - although after mainly getting by with light and heavy attacks, most bosses require you to memorize certain patters to get by. Nothing major - I didn't have issues with any of them. They incorporate multiple paths in some levels and camera angles to give things a nifty twist, but these gimmicks don't really improve the game as, in order to collect everything you have to go down both paths anyway, and the changing angles just serve to make it more difficult to judge where you're going to land.
Overall: Scarygirl is a decent 2D platformer. It doesn't break any new ground in the genre, nor revolutionize anything either. The main draw is the design, which is just interesting and a lot of fun. If the gameplay could match that design, it would be a home run, as it is, I mark it about a double - no more.
Overall (not an average): 3/5