Work with a cosmic red dragon entity to discover your destiny in this charming and striking platformer.
When it comes to the holiday period, I'm a fan of picking up a game or two that I can become thoroughly lost in and chewing through it over the lazy days that line the tail end of the calendar. To me, like watching A Christmas Carol or The Grinch on the 25th of December is for a lot, this is sort of an Xmas tradition, one that started over fifteen years ago when gaming first became a larger part of my life. With this in mind, when Scarf popped up on my radar recently, it became immediately clear that this could be a game to fill that void.
Developed by Uprising Studios, Scarf is a platforming adventure game that serves up an emotional experience that explores what it means to be a hero. Set across a variety of striking worlds and following an adorable blue ethereal creature as it teams up with a red, cosmic dragon entity that transforms into a scarf and gives our protagonist handy abilities, this game is all about discovering the truth behind our blue character's existence in this unusual yet charming world.
The narrative itself isn't conveyed in a traditional dialogue heavy fashion. This is a game that advances its story and offers up a connection between the player and the blue protagonist through the character's emotions and the sort of objectives they are expected to complete. What I mean by this is that you become attached to the lead character through seeing how it interacts with the dragon-scarf creature and the different challenges of existing in this peculiar world. The issue with this design however is that I still do not know the exact name for the protagonist or the dragon, and it is difficult to exactly define what the story is due to the lack of a clearly delivered narrative or substantial dialogue.
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While the story is a little hit of miss at times, despite being charming nonetheless, Uprising has excelled in various other areas. The gameplay for example, is simple and easy to grasp and uses basic platformer mechanics for the most part. You'll be expected to solve minor problems and puzzles (i.e. moving blocks into different places to recreate an image), as well as leaping, gliding and swinging to new areas in each level. It's a very basic style of platforming that shouldn't ever really see the player struggling and works to accommodate the general style of Scarf, which is that of a game that has a slower and more relaxing pace.
This isn't to say Scarf isn't fun, because it is. This is a title that has just the right amount of unique mechanics to feel entertaining without feeling too complex. You have plenty of control of the protagonist and can pick certain things up and sprint around a level, but at the same time the majority of the abilities are served up early on and from then on Scarf mostly revolves around its puzzles, with the abilities mostly being ways to reach these new problems.
As for the puzzles themselves, they can be actual puzzles, like the block moving one I mentioned earlier, but they can also be more physical challenges, i.e. picking up a magical orb that can dissipate water in a radius around the protagonist so that you can explore locations at the base of a lake or off the coast, to find the necessary path or item required to move onto the next section of a level. The variety of puzzles are quite impressive and there are some that will leave you baffled at times (the hide and seek one had me confused for a little while), but at the same time, as is the general premise of this game, they usually aren't designed to bewilder, with the majority of puzzles having solutions that are obvious or clear after a few short moments.
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You can probably tell by this point that one of the biggest focuses of Scarf is to serve up a game with a slower pace, and it achieves this competently. This isn't a title that will have you on the edge of your set, in fact it's one of the rarer games where you'll feel more comfortable experiencing it in a more lulled state, letting its relaxing nature take over you. This style is also elevated by the eye-catching, colourful level design and the striking art that makes each of the unique worlds that you travel between stand out and feel engaging to explore - even if the exploration aspect of the game largely revolves around keeping an eye out for basic and largely meaningless collectibles such as paintings and toys.
Even though it isn't perfect, the basic collectibles being one of the flaws, Scarf is a game that I find hard to see as anything less than charming. It's around 5-6 hours long, meaning it doesn't overstay its welcome, and it will make you want to keep playing until you reach the conclusion. Sure, the narrative isn't the easiest to make sense of, but that is made up for with the engaging puzzles and the fun gameplay mechanics. This isn't a title that is designed to challenge you, but it will leave you feeling contempt, and considering Scarf is launching just ahead of the holiday period, it's hard to see this game as anything less than a prime way to relax over the next couple of weeks.
7 / 10
Genuinely relaxing and charming experience. Puzzles are engaging without being too complex. Looks incredible.
Exploration outside of the main storyline is a little dull. Narrative can be difficult to make sense of.