Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gaming For Nomads Part 3: Dead Fish and Giant Bunnies

By Annie Wright

Scarygirl is another side-scroller, but unlike my other favorite online scroller, this one is a bit more involved. To start with, it offers a much more complex narrative than you would ever dare to hope for in a free online game. The titular main character, an orphan who lives in a tree, Scarygirl appears to be at least part zombie, sports an eyepatch, and generally behaves like a curious little girl. One arm is a bony stump, and the other is a squidlike tentacle on which our heroine wears a pirate hook (yes, this is your mode of attack!).

It is important to watch the opening sequence the first time you play, as it is actually a dream from which Scarygirl awakes up at the beginning of the game proper. She knows that she must discover her origin, but the only clue she has, aside from the dream, is the recurring memory of a bearded man wearing what appears to be a tiny fedora. Guided by a giant beatnik rabbit named Bunniguru and protected by Blister the octopus, Scarygirl sets off on her quest through gorgeously rendered, jeweltone-saturated landscapes that are equal parts Joan Miro and Tim Burton.

The story unfolds almost entirely in the form of memories which appear in little thought bubbles anytime they are presented or discussed, eliminating the need for any dialogue, which is unusual for a game with such an involved story. Become Scarygirl and battle multicolored hedgehogs and evil marionettes. Replenish your life force with dead fish, gather floating gems and collect bike parts (after which you build a bike that allows you to travel beyond the small neighborhood/seascape around your tree house), all the while accompanied by your pal, Toycat (unless, of course, you happen to be underwater), and eventually solve the mystery of the fedora man.

On a more technical note, you probably want to make sure you're working with at least 1G of RAM, otherwise you're probably going to have freezing issues. I rest assured that any self-respecting gamer would have found a way by now to at least upgrade an old machine to support his or her habit (what with the elevated need for plasma donors in modern medicine), but as this post is part of a series on gaming for nomads, I realize that there can be extentuating circumstances when traveling... like that 1st generation netbook that you maybe bought a little prematurely.

If the game isn't enough to satisfy your Scarygirl needs, you can also purchase the graphic novel, toys of several varieties, and even a journal , which strikes me as just a little ridiculous. I dearly hope that the scarygirl merchandising explosion does not go full-on Hot Topic, because this game truly deserves better than to be stigmatized as something that is exclusively for the goth-fairy/Juggalo-pants end of the counterculture spectrum.