May 2nd, 2012 | By Gerrard Winter
Right. Okay. Here goes. This is the narrative of Dark Scavenger as best I understand it: You play a wayward space traveler who’s been rescued by a gang of intergalactic scavengers. Said gang consists of three members: a robed skeleton weaponsmith, someone kind of H.R. Giger-esque space horror, and what appears The Joker’s love child if he ever decided to knock up a goblin. This motley crew then deploys you to a nearby medieval planet in search of…uh…space fuel, or something. Long and short of it: this game starts off frickin’ nuts, and only gets more fruity the further you descend into its deranged world of complete lunacy.
The gameplay is a bit more straightforward; best described as a heavily streamlined fusion of point n’ click adventures and RPG battle systems, which I guess is still relatively bonkers in its own right. The basic gist is that you select locations or objects from a map of the current area, which will then (in most cases) trigger an amusing/dangerous storyline event of some kind. You then have to resolve these events by either using suitable equipment from your inventory, thus reducing that equipment’s durability, or by choosing from a list of simple (and often detrimental) actions. Resolve the event correctly and you’ll be rewarded with loot, which can then be crafted into a new piece of equipment (either a Weapon, Item or Ally) for use in future events and battles.
Example situation: You’re given the opportunity to skip the game’s first real boss by providing him one of your Allies for use as a mate, for which I proposed he use my recently acquired ‘Your Mother’. Although he seemed slightly disappointed to be doing her “again”, it was still deemed a sufficient enough offering for me to simply waltz right on past and avoid a potentially difficult fight. And yes, this is a good illustration of the humor you should expect in Dark Scavenger.
While such exchanges are worth a good laugh or too, many of them tend to be a tad less clear-cut than that example, often with no reasonable way of knowing which option will net you more of that all important loot or just be a complete waste of Your Mother’s precious durability. That said, I think a good chunk of this game’s appeal comes from not having even the slightest clue of what crazy-ass nonsense it’s going to throw at you next! Luchador gorillas, weaponizing the sun, a game of crossbow russian roulette; it’s all utter madness that’s so left of field it’s outta sight. The maddest thing of all however, is the overwhelmingly gigantic size that your inventory of crazy gadgets will have grown to by chapter 3, and that’s bearing in mind that you’ll only be able to pick up about ⅓ of all items in the game on a single playthrough!
Most of the equipment only really come into play during the inevitable combat encounters however, in which every single gadget has its own silly twist. Such effects range from the mundane to the ridiculous, like the Toe Hoe’s ability to deal extra damage to enemies that are standing on one foot, or the Adorable Teddy’s tendency of stunning all human opponents with its daunting cuteness. What minimal ‘strategy’ this battle system has relies on you comboing effects like this together in order to keep your opponents stunlocked and to also change up your one major healing move.
However there’s not much depth beyond that, as most fights can be won by continually using the same powerful weapons over and over, with enemies doing little more in response than wail on you with normal attacks or occasionally charge up for a high damage move. In all, it feels more like a parody of a battle system than anything else, and sadly the joke wears a rather thin after the initial amusement phase passes over you. It’s not just the battle system that suffers from this issue though; such a criticism can easily be extended to the game as a whole.
While Dark Scavenger can easily ‘boast’ several hours of content, a vast majority of it is you repeatedly performing the same actions with no variation, all the while steadily building up an immunity to the game’s quirky humor. Once that novelty finally wears off, you’re just left with just a fairly monotonous pixel hunt that never seems to end. After a while of playing my brain simply drifted off to sleep and I went into autopilot mode: enter new area, click everything, use equipment that matches the description, start a fight, use your powerful equipment to win the fight, move on to next area. Repeat, repeat, repeat ad infinitum. It doesn’t really help that the game ain’t exactly pretty to look at either. Both the environment and character art feels slightly crude, and I found the interface to be highly reminiscent of 90s web design. Shiver.
Still, Dark Scavenger is sure to pry at least an inkling of a chuckle out of all but the most stoic of gamers, and that’s something to be commended. However nothing can change the one inescapable fact that makes the game super difficult for me to recommend on any level: it looks and feels exactly like a simple flash game. You know, one of those free browser based ones that amature game designers churn out? I don’t mean that as an insult to Flash game makers or the people behind Dark Scavenger; I just feel as though that’s the level of production values and longevity I’m seeing here.
So why does that matter? Plenty of those simple flash games are great fun! Well, it matters because Dark Scavenger ain’t a free little distraction you can boot up in your browser (even though the save files are stored in the browser cache for some reason?). Quite the opposite in fact, It’s an application you have to pay £6.65 for the privilege of using, which to me strikes as the very definition of ‘pushing it’. Make no mistake, I’m sure there’ll be at least a couple of people out there who’ll love this thing to bits, however its low production values (for a priced game anyway), limited gameplay and lack of any lasting appeal make it extremely difficult for me to support buying it at just about any price that doesn’t end in “pence/cents”.