Scarygirl: A gorgeous platformer with control issues

January 25, 2012

Every now and again, a little indie game comes along that grabs everyone’s attention thanks to unique design choices and brilliant immersive gameplay. Games like Braid, Limbo, and Super Meat Boy, just to name a select few, are all fantastic examples of this. These are the games that define gaming today, and we continue to see more of them as time goes on. Sadly, Scarygirl is not one of those games, despite how much it might want to be. It certainly has a lot going for it, but actually playing it is not one of those things.

Scarygirl is based on a series of cartoon strips and slowly gained a bit of a cult following from there. It later spawned a flash game of the same name, and now the first full downloadable title. As is with the original designs it is based on, Scarygirl is a very creative game in terms of the visuals. The look of the characters, the enemies, and the levels you visit are all share a look that is unmatched. It’s a shame that the rest of the game couldn’t keep up with what seems like a great concept.

The biggest problem with Scarygirl is how it controls. The controls feel sluggish and almost unresponsive at times. The first two major areas were okay, and it seemed like it just had a bit of a steep learning curve. But by the time you reach the third major area in the game, the difficulty ramps up and the platforming and combat require a lot more precise timing. This is where things fall apart, as the game itself expects you to do things the controls won’t allow you to easily do.

Scarygirl’s stretchy hook arm is both her main weapon as well as a way to traverse the environments. After jumps, it will allow you to hover for a few seconds as well as grapple and swing on specific points. The jumping isn’t great and the grappling seems to only work some of the times. Often I would find myself in range to grapple onto something only to not be able to, and I am completely unaware of why. There is a huge disconnect between the controls and the responsive of the character. This also comes into play with basic hit detection, as you will sometimes attack enemies directly without hitting them or be in range to perform a specific action and not be able too.

The combat itself is boring, despite there being a lot to it. Besides the basic light and heavy attacks, there is a bevy of specific combos you can unlock using gems you pick up throughout each level. These moves are unnecessary as your basic attacks do just what you need, but they are also sometimes even barely functional thanks to the whole sluggish controls issue.

Your hook can also grab stunned enemies to either smack around other enemies or throw, but the throwing mechanic is kind of busted too. You need to let go of the grab/grapple button while also hitting the stick in a specific direction, which alone is pretty clunky, but sometimes you throw it in a completely different direction. There are sections that require you to hit specific targets in the environment to process, so it can be frustrating. If you could see where you were aiming before you threw whatever you were holding, then this might not be a problem.

Combine all of the major control issues with a soundtrack that is decent, but completely repetitive and you have a game that should have been better than it is. There is a decent amount of content in Scarygirl, including drop-in drop-out co-op with another player, but you probably won’t have too much fun experiencing it all. There is a lot of promise and the game starts out strong, but sadly promise isn’t enough to make a game enjoyable.

Pros: Great visual design, decent length
Cons: Repetitive music, sluggish and sometimes unresponsive controls, boring combat

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.