“Wherever there is boredom, there is fun.”
I live in the UK. It would be underselling the political situation here to say the past few weeks have been an exudation of shit. My instincts are to follow such events with bloodshot eyes. To shower in the shit. Throw in January and February, where it’s eternally wet, cold, and grey, and you’ve got an especially exhausted, probably blubbering, Ross.
A pair of like-minded friends retreated to Barbados. Unable to afford such an extravagance, I stepped into Scarf. Admittedly, it’s not quite the same thing, but stay with me.
Far from Blighty’s miseries, here was a world that nurtured and healed, that popped with gleaming colours and sparkled with iridescence. Originality and depth weren’t among the popping and gleaming, but they didn’t need to be.
It was nice, and sometimes that’s enough, y’know?
Uprising Studios’ Scarf is beautiful in a way the screenshots don’t quite capture. Maybe it’s the undulating sands or the shimmer of the so-very-blue water, but the place needs to move to be properly appreciated. For the eponymous scarf to crest in the air, casting its majestic red glow on an already luminous world.
The game bills itself as a hero’s journey with some standard fare about fulfilling your destiny, but that’s a stretch. A fantastical creation myth is spun in the game’s opening, birthing our protagonist who bonds with a lonely red intelligence. After introducing a set of tinkering souls who have split the cosmos, off we embark to bring order out of chaos – that red intelligence wrapped around our hero’s neck.
As with many indie platformers, the act of inhabiting the world and demonstrating agency brings life to it. The revolutionary act of just being. Invisible platforms materialise and old machinery creaks into life once supplied with enough beads of light.
You’ll do all this while enacting classic platforming tasks. Jumping across timed pads, pushing and pulling boxes, and taking objects from one point to the next are just a few of the activities in store. You’ve seen and played most of it before, even if the scarf, which allows you to jump and glide, alters the flavour a little. If that sounds like a criticism, it’s not; this is familiar platforming done very well.
If there is criticism, it’s in the controls, which aren’t as responsive as I feel they need to be. If you end up gliding the wrong way, for instance, you’ll have to try again – it’s like manoeuvring a 747. More fluidity would have gone a long way.
On top of what I said earlier about the game’s lofty thematic claims, the narrative component is its weakest. Scarf boasts respectable voice acting, but I question the necessity for it. Its narrative does a lot with symbolism and allegory, which is when it works best. It’s similar to something like Submerged in this respect – walls painted with scenes that drip meaning, provide context. This is a more effective method for the story Scarf is trying to tell, so whenever one of the two voices pops up, it’s a bit jarring. Perhaps it doesn’t help that the writing needed some extra polish.
I’m nit-picking now, and I’d rather not: Scarf was lovely, arriving just when I needed it. Aesthetically, it was a bit like the hub worlds for the second Spyro game, with the magic castles and chilled getaways. Nostalgia at play? Most certainly; platformers are in my blood.
Scarf is appreciably short, absolutely gorgeous, and an ideal break from reality. Cheaper than Barbados, too.
Platforms Available – PC
Review based on Steam media account copy. Please read this post for more on our scoring policy.