REVIEW – Scarygirl (XBLA)

Boo or Boo-urns?

With a Tim Burton Nightmare Before Christmas aesthetic and 2.5D sidescrolling gameplay, Scarygirl is unique but ultimately comes up short on overall presentation and gameplay.

Every other girl that has a tentacle for an arm and a hook for a hand would probably go through life scarred and unhappy.  But Scarygirl welcomes it as this appendage can satisfy both combat and platforming, similar to the hook cane in any Sly Cooper game.

But having a goofy arm is just another creative example behind this Square Enix publish game; trying having an octopus for a mother, killer snow monsters trying to harm you, and living in a nightmare.  The game’s setting is definitely different and unexpected.

Unfortunately, its gameplay isn’t.  Like other PSOne platformers like Pandemonium or Crash Bandicoot, Scarygirl’s ultimately goal is to get from Point A to Point B via combat and platforming.  Like a weakened God of War combat system, Scarygirl has both a light and heavy attack.  When used in alteration, combos and juggles can be performed.  Combat opens up a little by allowing enemies to be grabbed and thrown into other enemies and new abilities can be unlocked by spending collected gems.  These tried and true gameplay mechanics worked well in countless other games but is held back in Scarygirl due to the lack of enemy variety, movement fluidity and cheap enemy attacks.


Speaking of movement, the controls are troublesome and seem to do whatever they want.  For some reason, when approaching ledge, Scarygirl just takes over and magnetically walks over the edge.  Simple left to right movement is much too loose and inaccurate.  Players of the pixel perfect jumps found in any Mario platformer or Klonoa will be out of place here.  Although I was able to tolerate the wobbly control scheme, I never became accustomed to it.

The standout feature of this 1200 Microsoft Point downloadable title is clearly the morbid visual flair.  Creepy things are found everywhere including the foreground and background.  However, the foreground and background mesh in confusion making it hard to distinguish what is interactive and what is there just for visual purposes.  Making this more cumbersome are the branching paths.  On occasion, the player can choose to go one way or the other.  But instead of offering something different, the branching paths wind up feeling like busy work because the player will just need to backtrack if all the gems and collectables are to be found.  Also the 2.5D auto moving camera sometimes displays crappy camera angles making it difficult to determine gaps.

The ominous background musical score is more noise than a dedicated soundtrack.  Some sections are especially annoying, like every summer bug performing their mating calls all at once.  But to be fair, it supports the distorted visual mood.  The piano gem collecting sound effect being the highlight.

Other nuisances include random glitches that popped up on more than one occasion.  During combat, Scarygirl got stuck and could only face in the right direction.  Also, one salesman offers to completely fill your energy meter for five gems but this purchase always left me with empty heart containers.  Also, the collect a full heart container Achievement didn’t unlock until I repeated the process a few times and the absorb-an-enemy’s life ability works at random.  Running into a bug or two can be forgivable, but not when it happens throughout the entire adventure.

But besides programming errors, the co-op feature sounds nice on paper but is limiting and inconsistent.  At any time, a second player can drop in or drop out but then camera issues arise and the second player bunny character doesn’t have a grapple hook which can make platforming difficult.  It good to have extra help during combat but the co-op platforming is unbalanced.

It is easy to find better platformers on just about every other system.  Scarygirl peaks with its visual charm but lacks polish to make it a recommendation worthy of a $15 purchase.  It is also safe to say that future DLC will be released as annoying DLC scanning messages pop up constantly, even multiple times before the quest initially begins.

Like that crazy goth chick from high school that wears nothing but Hot Topic products, it is probably best just to stay away.


Not As Good As: many other platformers

Also Try: the comic book series

Wait For It: Klonoa 3DS

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