Platform games are a legendary genre. From Mario to Ratchet & Clank, they continue to inspire with their grand sense of adventure in whimsical worlds. Scarf from Uprising Studios sweeps you into its world with gorgeous visuals and heartwarming charm, along with some excellent fabric physics that put PS2’s Shinobi to shame.
You are a newborn being who’s thrust aimlessly into the world. You soon discover the offspring of a dragon, whose mother was torn to shreds by mysterious invaders. These invaders used the remains to create portals to new worlds using the power within the threads left behind, setting the young dragon on a mission of revenge as it chases the invaders through the newly-made portals. After meeting and befriending you in this new world, it lends you its power as your scarf and accompanies you throughout the worlds, consuming the power of any invader it comes across.
You’ll traverse these worlds using a variety of platforming techniques, most of which come from your scarf’s power. While you can jump and sprint on your own, your scarf is the thing that gives you powers such as a double jump and a grapple swing. Using these powers, you’ll traverse the various locales through the invaders’ portals. These levels are chock full of puzzles and other unique elements, such as air cannons and level-altering crystals. While the puzzles and platforming challenges aren’t particularly difficult to overcome, moving through these worlds is fun and exciting.
After getting your suite of moves, the worlds of Scarf feel like a playground for them. You’ll jump, glide and dash through a variety of locales as you explore their unique mechanics and puzzles. Since your scarf takes the power from invaders, your main goals are puzzle solving and exploration. This focus works in Scarf’s favor, as its worlds are gorgeous.
Scarf’s visuals are nothing short of breathtaking. Each world is a lovingly crafted feast for the eyes and a joy to explore, littered with nooks and crannies that help you take in the scenery. From beautiful islands to lush forests, the natural beauty and mysterious architecture of each level serves as a great complement to the exploration and platforming. Scarf’s focus on puzzle solving also has certain puzzles that call for unique fixed camera angles, adding to the immersion of the experience. You’re also able to find hidden and varied collectibles off the beaten path, making exploration of these beautiful areas rewarding.
While these collectibles are optional, ‘Inks’ will play short cutscenes when discovered. These cutscenes are immersive and add tons of context to the story when found, to the point where certain aspects of the narrative may be difficult to understand without them. Other collectibles include small golden toys and illustrations that help fill out the world and make exploring it feel worthwhile, making a short game feel rather beefy when taken as a whole.
Inks alone make exploration worthwhile, though they’re easy to miss if you aren’t exploring every level. This makes their delivery feel lackluster considering their narrative importance. Even so, the visual storytelling in Scarf still feels top-notch as you make your way through the world and bond with your dragon scarf. You’ll periodically stop to bond and play, even heal it at times by feeding it a fruit made of light, which makes for some heartwarming and emotional moments. At times, though, these moments come at the expense of gameplay.
While the visuals are beautiful and the world is worth exploring, Scarf suffers from a few problems that will pull you away from the suspenseful story and beautiful locales. One of the biggest issues lies in the solo sections where you must traverse across sections of the level without your scarf. While some of these areas are compelling and add tension to the experience, it’s more often jarring to go through long stretches of play without more than half of your usual platforming abilities.
The soundtrack is also less than memorable, as it’s overshadowed by the strong sound effects of the world around you most of the time. There are also small issues that could have used more attention, such as minor wall clipping and brief audio popping at the beginning of a few cutscenes.
Scarf is an interesting and emotional puzzle-platformer that manages to keep you engaged with a varied amount of abilities, which are complemented by beautiful presentation, a breezy puzzle design and unique mechanics in each level. The visual storytelling is heartwarming, with many moments that will leave a smile on your face. Though its deeper themes and meanings are hidden behind collectibles, the incredible visuals make it easy for you to want to find them all. Areas without your scarf feel jarring, however, and the soundtrack leaves a lackluster impression. While there’s a lot to love about the game’s visuals and atmosphere to those who put the time in, players who don’t stop to find the collectibles in each world may find the game is over before it even begins.
A Steam key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review
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Scarf is a beautiful puzzle-platformer that packs a lot of meaning in a small package, but only to those willing to explore all of its gorgeous locales.
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