Review: Scarygirl

Scarygirl’s titular heroine isn’t the least bit terrifying. Her game, however, is set against an unsettling backdrop, unnerving soundtrack, and laced with bizarre, twisted imagery. It’s also a creepy treat with a fresh take on the familiar, sprinkled with mainstay platforming mechanics that allow players to jump in nearly instantaneously and feel right at home, despite the unwelcoming nature of Scarygirl’s universe. Nathan Jurevicius’s horrific creation might tickle your fancy for the quirky platformer yet.

Scarygirl, whose story unfolds through quick bits of text between levels, gets a primer in combat from a strange, mystical ninja rabbit, who guides players through the intricacies of combat using Scarygirl’s strange tentacle arm and other invaluable abilities, such as blocking oncoming attacks and a “rage” mode that allows her to plow through enemies like a hot knife through butter. After mastering the misfit monster girl’s basic repertoire, it’s simple to string together your newly-learned abilities to explore. Some abilities, such as grabbing and tossing enemies in a direction specified by aiming an analog stick, can be touchy, and hardly improve with practice, but aren’t used often enough to present any real annoyance. Controls feel tight and natural — not Mario standards, but acceptable nevertheless.

You’ll be presented with ample opportunities to put your newfound abilities to good use as Scarygirl traverses the land (mountaintops, underground caverns, and standard platformer fare) encountering neon hedgehogs, malevolent weeds, angry Yeti cubs, and a menagerie of other creatures with their sights set on keeping you from your goal. Luckily those who enjoy combo-based brawling should feel right at home here, carving through the sometimes ridiculous onslaught of enemies with finesse, a button masher’s dream.

Upgrades purchased through the painstaking collection of the alluring gems littered throughout each area make uprooting weird weeds and slowing down stubborn rams a breeze. Giving Scarygirl an anchor attachment, for example, allows her to inflict more damage. A feather upgrade will give her more air time when gliding through the air for those particularly nasty jumps. If packing gems into your inventory doesn’t scratch that collector’s itch, vinyl stickers can be sought after for each enemy type and aspect of the wild landscape, and some can be obtained via swapping gems. Upgrades and vinyls can be costly additions to your inventory, but the satisfying chimes that accompany your gem-hunting are hugely satisfying, and one of the most memorable parts of the game. In fact, Scarygirl’s smallest nuances, such as dodging massive swarms of spiders, the strange “surveillance” cameras that aid as checkpoints, and other oddities make it stand out much more in contrast to other platformers currently available via Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.

Co-op play allows you to trot through Scarygirl’s astute campaign mode even more quickly than one player could, which makes the platformer a quick weekend play. But its out-there decor, out-there heroine, and overall quirk factor enhance this already strong platformer, making it an adventure you’d do well to take. Especially if tentacle-armed girls are your thing.

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