Dark Scavenger: An off-the-wall dungeon adventure

May 19, 2014


Dark Scavenger feels like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign written by a middle-schooler, and I don’t mean that as an insult. Regardless of my advanced age, there’s something wonderful about finding a toaster on an alien planet, running it back to your ship and then deciding if you want a living skeleton to fashion a weapon from it, a creepy would-be car alien car salesman to create a hopefully-useful item or a Giger-inspired mouthless alien to recruit an ally for use in the upcoming battles.

Your party is strange, your weapons are strange, your equipment is strange and the opening battle makes me scratch my head in confusion. I survived well enough against an elder god in everything but name, but when a villager with a spear saunters up, I seriously consider running away because as it turns out  spears are sharp, pointy and HP-draining.


Dark Scavenger, on top of being an RPG, feels a lot like a choose-your-own-adventure book, with turn-based combat, key items that can be used to negate encounters wholesale and companions that can turn the tide of battle in place of levels and attribute points. If you win, you’ll do so by using the best tools for the job, not by grinding out a few levels until everything goes down in one hit.

Combat and exploration are both simple. You start on a map square, engage in combat, look around the area for additional encounters and return to the ship to turn that bat carcass into a “vampire bat” weapon that hits pretty hard and leeches health from the enemy. Choosing between a flashlight and a rusty sword could turn things in your favor, as some enemies are weak to fire, resistant to melee damage and reliant on heavy-hitting focus attacks.

There are some rough edges. Specifically, the art isn’t great. Everything looks hand-drawn in a “seventh-grade notebook” way instead of a “professional artist bringing our vision to life” way. Maps are simple with incompatible perspectives, and hotspots light up on mouse hover.


What will keep you coming back, though, is the humor. Everything that happens is accompanied by text, and the text is funny more often than not. Humor is hard to do in games, but I found myself actually laughing at things instead of just thinking “oh, that’s clever” fairly often. The funniest bits, in my opinion, happen after you’ve cleared a screen and have some loot to turn into weapons, items and allies.

The weapon- and item-makers have mouths, and give pretty good hints about what they can make. The alien responsible for calling allies, though, has no mouth and so must pantomime his intentions. Bring him a rope and he’ll run around like a cowboy; bring him a crossbow and he’ll try to act like one of the indigenous people of the planet. Bring him a blanket, though, and he’ll chase you around the room, give you hugs and clean your cheeks before showing you that your own mother has joined the party and is available as an ally in battle.


At the end of the day, I’m not certain if Dark Scavenger is an RPG, a visual novel or an adventure game. And I find myself not really caring one way or the other, because it’s entertaining. I’m not good enough at the combat to have seen the end of the story despite numerous runs, but it’s enough for me to have fun tripping bad guys, sending a tiger to maul them and then pushing my big red button to decimate the other side when things get really hairy.

It is possible to avoid many combat encounters, and you need to do so (I think) to be a successful dark scavenger and find a new fuel source for your ship, but experimentation and failure are fun here, so I guess there’s also some roguelike on the Dark Scavenger recipe card as well. It’s a good time, even if it’s not what you’d expect from a point-and-click RPG choose-your-own-adventure roguelike.

Pros: Tons of weapons, items, and allies to find; legitimately funny
Cons: Desperately needs a visual makeover

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.