Scarf Video Game Review

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Our Score: 7/10

In our review of Scarf I won’t be giving any plot spoilers. The only part of the game’s plot I will explain is a brief synopsis of the story and characters from the first hour of gameplay.

Scar is an indie platformer game where you control the protagonist, the Nomad, and his scarf. The premise of the plot is simple: the Nomad needs to get a portal to his world working again by gathering energy from people scattered across various worlds. The Scarf also isn’t just a fashion accessory, it’s actually a living creature that helps the Nomad across his journey.

The plot in this game is cryptic, and you’re meant to gather pieces of information and put them together. The cutscenes on-screen are explained with 2D illustrations along with a voiceover. The way the voiceover is phrased makes the game read like a story which adds to the mysterious atmosphere of the game.

Some of these cutscenes are presented from progressing through the game normally as part of the main plot, but there are also many optional cutscenes spread throughout the levels called Inks. These Inks give more information about the characters in the game and lore of the Nomads. The illustrations have a great art direction; the artwork in the game look like tapestries, where you read images of important events in the game’s backstory from left to right.

The characters themselves, such as the Nomad protagonist or the Scarf, have no dialogue at all in the game. Scarf is on the minimalist side, but I really enjoyed the voice acting of the narrator.

The characters in the game have 3D models, and although the graphics are not impressive from a technical standpoint the animations are very well made. You’ll often see a lot of meaningful character interactions such as the Nomad petting the Scarf or feeding the Scarf energy when it is feeling tired.

The three worlds in the game are each very vibrant in color and have their own theme and gameplay elements. The game includes an ocean world, a desert world and a forest world.

The puzzles in the ocean world for example make a lot of use of lever puzzles where you raise and lower the water level to get to new areas. The forest area on the other hand has a lot of wild animals you need to scare off or feed treats to allow them to move so you can advance.

The gameplay in Scarf is very fun and addicting. The platforming in Scarf is not hard at all because your checkpoint will always be just a few steps away. You’d most commonly die from falling into a pit of water and be returned either where you jumped off or just a few seconds before the platforming segment in a safe zone.

There are no enemies in the game at all and no combat. There are puzzles involving tricking animals into leaving where a key item is and there are interactions between the Nomad and other NPCs, but otherwise there aren’t enemies to interact with.

The gameplay admittedly does start off slow, but as soon as you get into the first world after the prologue you’ll start unlocking most of the protagonist’s abilities within half an hour.

One of the most useful abilities is being able to dash by holding the left trigger. You can jump lightly by tapping the jump button, or if you hold it down you can jump slightly further. There’s also a double jump ability, an ability to latch onto hooks to swing across platforms, and a slingshot ability to launch the protagonist across gaps.

The gameplay platforming is very responsive and I never felt any unfairness from falling off a platform. By the time you unlock all the aforementioned abilities in the middle of the first world, the platforming and exploration becomes significantly more fun.

There are also many kinds of objects in the worlds to interact with, and when combined with all the abilities you can use it makes for very fun puzzles you need to solve to progress.

For example, there are water orbs that allow the protagonist to walk underwater while he is holding the orb, but at the same time you cannot jump or interact with objects while holding the orb. It also only clears the water a certain perimeter around the protagonist, so you may need to drop the orb and use a lever, then pick up the orb again.

In the first world there was an interesting puzzle involving a turtle shell. The game made it look like you were supposed to weigh the turtle shell onto a switch, but there was also a block nearby allowing you to climb a steep wall. The turtle is scared when the Nomad is nearby and becomes a shell that you can interact and push, but when you leave a few steps the turtle will freely move around again.

The trick was to use the shell as a stepping stone because the switch needs to remain pressed down. If you put the shell onto the switch it’ll eventually start walking and undo your progress, but it’s fine if it’s used as a stepping stone because once you’re up the wall you don’t need it again.

There are also other puzzles involving finding a gem buried slightly in the ground and using it to create structures for the character to platform on. These gems don’t get locked into place when you use them to power structures, so you can freely move them between different areas to create or remove structures as you need.

Sometimes the Scarf character will run off either for story reasons or for gameplay reasons. It’s pretty interesting because there was an area I was stuck in for about 5 minutes or so and the Scarf actually detached from the Nomad and moved a bit a to point out a hint on what to do next. The Scarf pointed out a detached lever I had trouble seeing on the ground, which I then found and placed into a switch slot to use the lever to proceed.

There are also story areas where the Scarf will become tired, and the Nomad protagonist will need to travel on his own for a while to gather energy to feed to the Scarf. The developers did an astounding job of making the Scarf genuinely feel like a living partner, rather than just a piece of clothing for the protagonist.

It can be tricky to find some of the items to proceed, but thankfully the developers made a sparkle effect on useable items so that they don’t blend into the colorful world too much. Most of the areas of the game are also not too big, so you really won’t get lost easily. If you have trouble finding a key item, it would likely take you only 5-10 minutes of searching to find it.

In each world you’ll have an area or two where you’ll need to collect fragments to unlock the next area in the world, but it’s not hard at all and it breaks up the linear structure of the game by letting you collect the fragments in any order you’d like in a more open area.

The only part I found tricky where I wasn’t sure what to do (due to no spoken dialog) was the hide-and-seek puzzle that the Nomad does with another character in the forest level.

It was easy at first because you were “it” and you just had to find the other character hiding, but it was confusing because afterwards the other character wanted you to hide.

The area had many unique hiding spots, such as bushes that the protagonist would crouch in that you wouldn’t see in other areas of the game, but nothing was happening. My character was crouched in a bush for ten minutes, and the other character I was playing hide-and-seek with was barely looking around. The other character was just staying around the center area turning their head back and forth and not even searching.

I was stumped on what to do. There was a button prompt to whistle, but that didn’t make sense to me either. I asked myself, “Why would you whistle while hiding in hide-and-seek?” And when I’d use the whistle option, either nothing would happen or the other character would just spot me immediately and then make me hide again.

The trick was to hide very close to him, whistle to lure him away while you’re moving behind cover, and then run to the center area to win. That’s the only area where the solution was very nonobvious because it looked like a regular game of hide-and-seek at first but it’s really more of a “you need to tap the center area without him spotting you” kind of game.

There are three worlds in the game, and each takes about an hour to complete but there are collectibles on side paths in each of the worlds. There are 3 optional Inks you can collect in each of the 3 worlds which provide extra lore through short cutscenes. These are telegraphed with a black stone near the entrance to the side path, where the Scarf will get scared for a moment and you’ll need to complete a short segment with the Nomad alone without the Scarf of its abilities.

As well, there are toy collectibles in each of the worlds (3 in the first, 5 in the second and 5 in the third). Some of these are hidden quite well and require you to use your abilities intelligently such as carefully gliding to a platform far off in the distance.

The last kind of collectible are drawings, which are portraits hidden on a wall you wouldn’t typically think to look, and there are 3 of them in each world. These aren’t as important for understanding the story and are really just for fun. These collectibles are great additions because they add replayability and give you an excuse to re-explore levels.

It’s worth noting that the Inks are very important to get because there aren’t that many main story cutscenes in the game and the cutscenes that are in the game are unfortunately cryptic. It is a bit tricky to understand the full nuance of the plot.  There are 3 Inks scattered across 3 worlds, and if you get at least 6 of them you can open a pyramid in the hub area that will give you a lot more story exposition.

One of my other criticisms of Scarf is that it’s short, being only about 3-5 hours long depending on if you go for all the collectibles. The game really does put quality over quantity with its beautiful landscapes and illustrations.

The player is meant to sit back and enjoy the worlds without rushing through the game. The puzzles are not hard at all and neither is the platforming since you have a double jump and a glide ability, so the game is very accessible to newcomers of the platformer genre. If you don’t mind a shorter game and would enjoy relaxing indie platformer, I’d recommend for you to give Scarf a try.

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