The twisted imagination of graphic novelist Nathan Jurevicius comes to animated life in a downloadable side-scrolling adventure for Sony's entertainment console.
The part platforming, part combat challenge of Scarygirl (Square Enix and TikGames, reviewed for PlayStation 3, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $9.99) takes place in the gothic-cute, psychedelic world of an orphan girl taken in by a highly intelligent octopus named Blister.
A player controls her on a mission to find the mysterious bearded man haunting her dreams through a seven-chapter story offering 21 levels of action.
Our heroine is a bit odd in the truest Tim Burton traditions there's a patch over her eye, stitched-together lips, ragged pirate clothes and, oh yes, a tentacle with a hook at its end for one arm.
Her handy squid appendage becomes her best weapon and tool as it acts as a helicopter blade to reach higher areas, a grapple to attach to and swing from vegetation and a lasso to grab enemies. Another power in her arsenal temporarily transforms the orphan into an anglerfish to swallow up opponents.
Foes can range from feisty creatures that look like the Scrubbing Bubbles of bathroom cleaner fame to slugs, charging goats, dive-bombing bird skeletons, owls, weeds and eventually bosses, such as a massive mama Yeti, who attack in classic platformer routines (watch for patterns and strike at the lulls). Fallen enemies wisp away in a puff of purplish smoke, keeping the violence cartoony.
All of the action is set in a three-dimensional world confined to a character's 2.5-D movements, reminiscent of the days when Crash Bandicoot and Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong ruled the entertainment console.
A player can choose paths to explore, duck rock slides (featuring some slick 2-D clouds), swim deep down into a swamp, battle around a winding wooden staircase and fight through an underground cavern loaded with florescent foes.
Fairytale locales such as Old Man Mountains, the Hairclump Spider Caves and Haunted Owl Forest come to cluttered life as objectives between jumping, climbing, floating, ducking, swimming and lots of slapping lead to collecting fish (restore health hearts) and gems for some precious upgrades.
Those include an Anaconda Squeeze, a pogo attack, using a morphing tendril that turns into a large mallet, and replacing her hook with a feather and fish.
A friend can jump aboard the Scarygirl adventure in the cooperative role of a mystical rabbit named Bunniguru. Our furry friend punches in flurries, and can float to higher areas by meditating, but acts only in a meager support role, often finding himself taking the fatal hit for his female friend. Don't worry, he returns at each checkpoint.
Adapting the work of Mr. Jurevicius into a three-dimensional realm does not look bad with some dynamic moments, but would not have been my choice. I would have explored a cel-shaded option to give players a much more vivid and accurate sense of his wonderful illustrated worlds.
Additionally, a droll narrator amuses by offering words of wisdom to flesh out the story. It's a role the late Vincent Price would have relished.
Although the game appears geared toward the younger, edgier Emily Strange crowd, its difficulty in later levels will keep a tween challenged and mashing the light and heavy attack buttons far into the night.
Scarygirl presents a strangely endearing adventure and, while certainly backed by an imaginative story and co-stars, brings only a comfortable fit to the genre. It's fun and a reasonable price, but can't compete against more polished works such as Trine 2, Deathspank or Bastion.
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