Announced in 2018, Scarf was originally planned for the following year. Then there was radio silence, until a short gameplay presentation last September… but still no release date. So it’s a kind of little surprise gift that Uprising Studios and HandyGames (THQ Nordic) gave us just before Christmas, finally releasing this little independent game.
In this platform and puzzle game, you play as a very mysterious little being. Accompanied by a dragon-shaped scarf and possessing its own conscience, your task is simple: take revenge on the rebellious souls who have created their own worlds. Then begins a short adventure through these different biomes to fulfill your destiny. But beware appearances are sometimes deceiving and being a hero is not necessarily what you think.
worlds and wonders
Mix between Omno and Journey, both in the artistic dimension and in the spirit, this little independent game has a touch of magic that is found both in its old worlds and in its soundtrack. Thus, it is very pleasant to discover each of the worlds of Scarf. Colorful and shimmering, they have that certain something that makes your adventure wonderful. Three in number (plus a central hub), they are all centered on different biomes.
From the rocky lands along the coasts, to the heavy heat of the desert expanses, passing through the magic of the green forests, each world has its own visual identity and introduces its own mechanics. Thus, in the first world we discover the existence of a stone allowing to remove the water (deadly in this game) around oneself. In the forest, you will rather have to interact with its inhabitants. The new mechanics will therefore revolve around crows and other rabbits slowing you down in your quest.
Besides these features, the worlds are linked and resemble each other in their structure. In each of them, you need to find several creatures holding the orbs needed to open the final portal. But the latter will not let it go and will do everything possible to stop your progress or harm your faithful companion. Thus, you will sometimes have to collect various fragments to unlock a new path or restore strength to your scarf (which also recalls the nomad’s volatile outfit from Journey). This last point is very important, because without this powerful accessory, you are no longer a hero. It allows you to perform double jumps and glide, while serving as vines when necessary.
Alone, you can only make short jumps and move quite slowly. Suffice to say that to pass thus the four short hours needed to discover the story would have something to weigh down the experience (allow one or two hours more for 100%). Fortunately, there are few times when you find yourself so helpless. They even allow, paradoxically, to pace the experience a bit by changing the gameplay a bit. Understanding the different puzzles on your way does not have the same flavor with or without your scarf.
Is it cotton?
And there are puzzles. To unlock the different fragments, you will have to work your brains. Puzzles to solve and paths to build make up the bulk of the Scarf experience. And it must be said that these puzzles are rather pleasant to achieve. But unfortunately, a certain redundancy is quickly felt. And then, it must be said that they are not very complicated for regular players.
If the game can be played in less than four hours, it’s good because its puzzles are relatively simple. With the exception of a few rare moments, the approach to follow is self-evident and we chain the puzzles without really having to rack our brains, precisely. Especially since the game spends its time wanting to make our job easier. We are thus often interrupted, whether by our companion or a brief cinematic, to show us the locations of the different fragments, for example, or the arrival of a new mechanism. Scarf would do well to stop grabbing our hands all the time. A habit that can quickly become annoying for experienced players.
However, this approach might be more suitable for a younger audience or someone with little knowledge of video games. We also feel that the title is intended to be accessible. Childish graphics, fairly simple mechanics and cuteness of all kinds are all elements that have enough to make ordinary mortals have a good time. The relationship between the scarf and its wearer is also quite touching. Even the game’s story has a rather interesting double reading that can speak to both young and old alike.
The fate of which you are the hero
It’s through very well animated cutscenes (and to the tunes of a tale) that the plot presents itself to the player. You are described there as a hero who came to avenge a family torn apart by vile creatures. But the reality quickly turns out to be much more complex. In the end, the little beings you hunt down have nothing very evil about them. The game therefore invites you to ask yourself questions about your real nature. Questions that may well find their answers through various memories scattered throughout the game. Depending on whether you pick them up or not, you will be able to unlock two endings, corresponding to two very different destinies. Note that if you miss one of them, you have the possibility to go through each level again. But you will unfortunately have to start them from the beginning each time.
But to be a hero, do you already have the stuff. And the least we can say is that our little nomad doesn’t really have the stature he needs… at least not from a technical point of view. With its somewhat stiff movements and low-level animations, there is sometimes something to grimace in front of our hero. Add to that some slowdowns and other bugs (may force restarting the game) and the epic of the latter loses its flavor. Again, these points will not spoil the experience of young or inexperienced players, but will, for sure, put off some others.
- An enchanting universe
- Well thought out puzzles…
- A story from two points of view
- A game that tastes of deja vu
- …but too simple
- The obligation to restart the level from 0 to recover the missing collectibles
Don’t be fooled by its air of a cute adventure: Scarf has much more to offer than a Manichean story, and that’s its main strength. Between its wonderful universe and its well-thought-out puzzles, the app has many qualities, but also some flaws that weigh heavily in the balance. Yet another independent title in the vein of Journey, the first game from the Spaniards at Uprising Games is struggling to stand out. And that’s a shame given the potential of this short adventure, which is still fun to discover.
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