Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like video game mascot characters are getting lamer as the years go on. Maybe all the cool animals have been taken already, or programmers are giving them less attention than they did in the 1990s, but whatever the case, the current crop of platforming action stars leave me with an empty feeling.
A good example of this is Scaler, a game that allows you to take control of a blue lizard thing that, you guessed it, has a lot of attitude. Before he was turned into that lizard creature, Scaler (AKA Bobby Jenkins) was a teenage rebel. But he wasn’t the type to shoplift or bully other kids, oh no, he went on hunger strikes and lived in a tree for environmental reasons.
The game picks up right after the bad guys capture Bobby Jenkins. They intend to torture him and get the information stuffed away in the teenage boys head. But things go awry and the machine used for torture ends up turning our hero into a large lizard thing, or Scaler. Unfortunately, this accident also sends Scaler into another universe … or a “multiverse” as the instruction manual calls it.
Once in this new world, Scaler confronts another large creature who seems to have a plan to get them out of there, but it involves beating a lot of bosses and collecting a lot of green lizard eggs. After you get your mission directive the story ends and it’s up to you to find those green eggs and get you, and your new pal Leon, out of this alternate universe and back into human shape.
Scaler is made up of a number of good size areas for you to explore, generally containing one or two green eggs. The missions are pretty simple for the most part, nothing more than collect all of the items and explore the area for hidden treasure. As you travel around you will find a bunch of floating yellow dots that can be used to buy character upgrades, such as more life, a stronger attack, and camouflage.
Scaler’s gimmick is that he can morph into other creatures … but only one creature per area. To perform such a feat, Scaler must take out a set amount of that kind of creature before obtaining the skill. Once he can morph it opens up entirely new sections of the world for you to explore, ultimately leading you to more green eggs. The creatures you turn into have special powers, but are also limited in a number of ways. When you’re a Bakudan you can throw bombs at your enemies, but you’re also slow with terrible jumping abilities. The Doozum allows you to fly about, but is hard to get used to and not especially effective at attacking foes. Of the five forms all of them are useful, but you’ll never prefer being one of those characters over your regular Scaler form.
Scaler’s moves aren’t especially inspired, as they involve you punching enemies and using your tongue to pick up items and stun oncoming foes. Even though you can upgrade your character, your moves pretty much remain the same the whole game through. This can lead to some tedious game play, much of which you’ll grow tired of fairly quickly. The game allows you to pick up and leave the level at any time, which can be nice if you’re just looking to explore other parts of the game. Most of the sections are locked until you earn enough eggs, but you can always see what’s ahead of you and can usually journey forward without finishing all of the goals in the levels.
Between the levels you will run across a number of boss battles that feature large creatures ready to take you out. A lot of these battles are nothing more than puzzle solving while dodging enemy attacks, but there are a few battles that require a firm knowledge of the attack system. These fights are the most impressive aspect of the games, and it’s a shame there are so few of them.
The game itself looks good, but doesn’t seem as colorful or exciting as the worlds we see in other popular platformers. The character animations are good, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of them and you tend to see a lot of repeating very early on. The various worlds each look fantastic, even if they are a little darker than I anticipated. They feature unique artwork and designs, and after a short time you will completely forget about the lame story and lizard creature you’re controlling.
A large part of Scaler’s problem is its lack of originality; just about everything in this game you’ve done before in much better games. The game itself is a lengthy journey that has you collecting close to two dozen green eggs, but after three or four you will probably be reaching for something else to play. It’s not that any of these elements are bad, it’s just that the game seems to lack energy and isn’t all that much fun to play.
Another problem comes in the way of the games difficulty, which is pretty easy for most of the game, and then all of a sudden ramps up without warning. The platforming bits are usually easy, but towards the end of the game they just throw so much at you it feels more frustrating than anything.
By the time you’ve wrapped up the story you’ll want nothing more to do with young Bobby Jenkins or anybody else associated with his world. The characters are so over the top you’ll wonder why they don’t have their own early morning show on Nickelodeon, and the world is so dreadfully boring you’ll wonder why you even played this long. These characters aren’t interesting or engaging, they are annoying and aggravating.
By the end of the game I started to wonder who this title was targeted at. Adults will hate the characters so much they’ll probably never get past the second world, whereas the children will be turned off by the games dark look and steep challenge (especially towards the end). Even for a budget price, it seems like Scaler is going to be a tough sell. He’s certainly not the worst mascot character I’ve ever seen, but if this is where developers have been forced to go, then I fear for the future of this genre.
Even though Scaler tries as hard as it can, it just doesnâ€™t have what it takes to compete against the current crop of 3D platformers.
Rating: 6 Flawed
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.