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Scarygirl (Xbox 360) artwork

Scarygirl (Xbox 360) review


"Unfortunately, that joy was often marred by frustration. The controls seem a bit loose, which can make precise leaping more trouble that it's worth. Your character is pretty versatile, using her tentacle arm to whack enemies, briefly hover through the air and swing from objects, but it got tricky to consistently pull off some of those moves, especially since the girl struggles with fundamentals like stopping on a dime."



Scarygirl was kind of a blast from the past for me. The title character, a young doll-like girl with a stitched mouth and tentacle arm reminds me of Tim Burton's amazingly awesome movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. The 21 levels of her game regularly flooded my brain with memories of classic platformers from the 16-bit era and (perhaps more accurately) those early PlayStation days before pure 3-D games had taken over the system.

You'd have this faux 3-D deal going on in games like Klonoa and Pandemonium where the action was handled in 2-D, but the backgrounds scaled in 3-D, giving the illusion that the levels you're traveling had more depth than the ones in earlier games. TikGames, who developed this game for Square-Enix, borrows heavily from that formula to create a downloadable title that might not really break any new ground, but does adequately rehash a ton of things I've seen before in a charming way.

Scarygirl asset


Charm is where Scarygirl scores many of its points. There is a good bit of variety in the levels and they're lushly drawn, ranging from forests to caves to underwater locales. There is a lot of detail in the background, like when I was wandering through a bandit-inhabited forest and seeing caged animals all over the place. Little touches like the "OH NO" (along with protagonist-themed skull-and-crossbones) that pops up on the screen after you've lost a life add to the grotesque-cute vibe this game pulls off so well. Each level is preceded by a bit of exposition, as a deep-voiced narrator gives you a hint as to what you'll be facing. There's not much of a plot, as the heroine seems to be looking for answers concerning the ominous nightmares marring her otherwise happy life with her octopus guardian, but with a game like this, does that really matter? Much like the classic Mario and Sonic games, the joy is in the playing…not in watching long-winded conversations.

Unfortunately, that joy was often marred by frustration. The controls seem a bit loose, which can make precise leaping more trouble that it's worth. Your character is pretty versatile, using her tentacle arm to whack enemies, briefly hover through the air and swing from objects, but it got tricky to consistently pull off some of those moves, especially since the girl struggles with fundamentals like stopping on a dime. That imprecision wasn't a horrible game-breaker or anything, but could get annoying when stumbling off a ledge cost me a life after I'd been going for a while without seeing a checkpoint. It also doesn't help that, oftentimes, you'll have to learn what to do in certain areas by trial-and-error -- essentially dying, so you can live through a challenge the next time you try it. For example, one button allows you to block enemy attacks, but that doesn't work on everything. Who'd have guessed that gigantic spiked logs swinging from the background could easily be blocked…while massive spiked balls careening down ramps instantly kill you no matter what? Not I.

With the pulse-pounding, intense nature of a platformer, those little flaws were more noticeable to me than they would have been in a more relaxed game. One little slip-up could lead to a cheap death, which annoyed me, which led to me making mistakes and dying a few more times, which would lead to me yelling horrible and hateful things at my television before turning the game off for the night and coming back to it after I'd completely recharged my batteries.

Scarygirl asset


Take one of the levels in the third region, for example. Sending you to a cave, it starts out with a cutesy scene of the girl being startled by a spider and violently removing the crawly critter from her presence. Which leads to her discovering that the entire cave is infested by them and they seem hungry. The first part of the level has you running from a moving wall of spiders that can instantly kill you. After finding out that jumping and hovering through the air allows you to move faster than merely running, I had no problem with this portion of the stage. Later on, though, you reach an area where you have to use special light-generating mushrooms to cause lines of spiders to scatter, giving you a chance to run past them. So, you use the girl's tentacle to grab a mushroom and throw them at the swarming spiders and nothing happens. And you try again and again until you hit the specific part of the line that causes the desired effect. Sometimes, I got it on the first try. In one particular instant, it took at least a dozen attempts and I died a few times by accidentally jumping into the spiders. This was annoying.

So was combat at times. You won't be jumping on enemies to squash them or anything like that; instead relying on what could best be described as a scaled-down, gore-free take on God of War's battling. Using the girl's tentacle arm, you whip foes with one button giving you a quick, weak attack and another giving a slower-but-stronger whack. The right trigger can be used to pick up stunned foes in order to throw them. There also are a number of supplemental attacks that can be purchased at shops, including an incredibly handy one that allows you to devour those stunned foes in order to regain health.

Scarygirl asset


Which is all well and good, except for how TikGames uses the fact you can take multiple hits in order to, at times, make it feel like you're running a gauntlet with the goal being to barely survive up to the next checkpoint. For large chunks of a level, you might be mainly attempting precision jumping and wall-climbing while whipping the occasional enemy, but then you'll be stuck in an intense battle with a horde of aggressive monsters with your tiny character and her short-range attack. After breezing through a horde of fireball-spewing birds placed where it's child's play to take them out in one level, I found it disconcerting when I was stuck with four of them (placed FAR less conveniently) in an enclosed space. That's the sort of challenge which seems designed to cripple a player's life bar.

Then again, with some practice, I might find things like that to be easy. Scarygirl's levels are meant to be repeatedly played. If you can overlook the slew of minor annoyances and grievances, you'll find a lot of gems and heart containers scattered throughout every level. Collecting all of them (which can take some work) gives you large point bonuses if you're looking to register on the online leaderboard. Aside from extra attacks and girl-enhancing items, the stores also offer collectible figures of virtually everything you'll encounter, giving you plenty of reasons to want to collect each and every gem you can find.

I just don't know how much desire I'll have to play this one again. It is a very attractive game that I genuinely had fun playing most of the time. But the loose controls essentially meant that a frustrating moment could be around any corner. Scarygirl's the sort of game that I'd start a session in a good mood and having a great time, but after a couple of hours, I'd find myself annoyed, frustrated and needing to take a break -- the sort of thing that I'd recommend on a discount, but not at full price.

Rating: 6/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (January 28, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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Suskie posted January 28, 2012:

The title character, a young doll-like girl with a stitched mouth and tentacle arm reminds me of Tim Burton's amazingly awesome movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

HRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNGGH
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overdrive posted January 28, 2012:

Que?

Me confused.
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zigfried posted January 28, 2012:

Me too! Is Tim Burton not the person responsible for this movie? If so, it shows a lot of gall that the studio actually injected his name into the title.

//Zig
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 28, 2012:

I think we found Suskie's weakness.
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Suskie posted January 28, 2012:

Me too! Is Tim Burton not the person responsible for this movie? If so, it shows a lot of gall that the studio actually injected his name into the title.

I'll say, considering that he had virtually no involvement in the making of the film itself.
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Genj posted January 28, 2012:

Tim Burton created the characters & concept, so it technically is still the truth to call it Tim Burton's creation (granted it's obvious his name gets top billing because he's marketable). It's not as far of a stretch as when Tarantino's name was plastered over adverts for Hero or Hostel.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 28, 2012:

Or worse, sticking Wes Craven's name on They.
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Suskie posted January 29, 2012:

It's his concept, but not his movie. (This has been one of my pet peeves for a while now, so I apologize.)
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zippdementia posted January 29, 2012:

Hold the phone! Tim Burton may not have physically made the film, or directed it, but it was only because of him that the film ever got made. The studios were incredibly hesitant to make a stop motion feature film (it was not a very popular medium, even at that time) and it was only Tim Burton pulling in all his contacts and throwing some of his own money into the mix that made it happen. When the studios later tried to interfere, he stood in front of them like Moses in front of Pharoah and parted their complaints like the red sea.

So I don't think it's wrong to give the man the amount of credit he's gotten, considering without him there wouldn't be a film.

Film is always a collaborative effort and it is not rare for one name to end up dominating over the others in the minds of the public and in advertisements. The question is, did everyone else get their due? Yes, they did. It went on their resume, they got jobs, they got paid for this job, Tim himself acknowledged their roles many times over, and in return they don't have to be famous and wear their hair in a white man's afro like Tim Burton because that's what's expected of crazy people who make awesome films like Nightmare Before Christmas.

Danny Elfman for instance, who did all the music and provided Jack's voice for the singing? Yeah, he's doing just fine.

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