Scarf is a beautiful 3D action adventure game full of puzzles and ideas that clearly have some nods to many games in “emotional adventure” genre. Think Journey, or in this case, Rime – and you’ll be in the right ball park. As Scarf gets itself set up and explores its ideas in greater detail, it becomes its own game and fully deserves its place in the sun as a great emotional adventure game.
Playing as the main character you have a scarf that seems to turn into a dragon and devour magical powers. Doing so adds on new abilities to the scarf and as the scarf grows longer, those powers become greater. Whilst this starts off as just jumping, grabbing and pushing things about it quickly escalates. Early on you can use the scarf as a sky hook to swing around then later on it can be turned into a glider to effortlessly fly across giant chasms. Add in a few bounce pads and wind cannons and you have tons of traversal to enjoy. It isn’t often you are against the clock either with falling platforms so you can attack Scarf at your own pace for a lot of the playtime.
Each world contains various set piece areas like giant temples, barren deserts, mountains and so on and these set pieces bring together lots of mini puzzles to solve an overarching one. Usually it’ll be solve six puzzles to collect spirits that make your scarf glow. When fully glowing the scarf will then interact with mystical switches which may open a door. Each environment goes about it differently and Scarf rarely repeats itself. Some puzzles might involve matching blocks to murals. Some may be setting up platforms with wind cannons to then jump over. It could be tying up your scarf to create a catapult for yourself to inaccessible areas. It could be rotating around pieces of buildings to open new areas. Whilst there are variations on themes, it is never dull and always offering a new spin on something. Scarf also does some really fun new ideas too like picking up orbs that let you walk through water and change water levels which alter how the platforming sections work.
Visually, Scarf is an absolute treat. It looks clean, fresh, vibrant and alive. Some of the temple designs are mini works of lo-poly art. The soundtrack is absolutely stunning too with rich orchestrations and understated melodies that just work. Add in light spirits that just float around as you interact with them and complete their puzzles and some cinematic camera work and you’ve got a game that knows how to milk the emotion out of every transition. To say more about the story would perhaps spoil it beyond saying that you are working towards a pyramid at the end of your journey. You can pick up collectables to fill out the background story of your character and the scarf and these involve separating yourself from the scarf and becoming almost zombie like in dark sludge as you amble forward to collect these hidden orbs. At first I thought the game didn’t want me to collect them but press on – they provide the backstory!
I did run into a couple of graphical and control issues though. My character would often clip against things I didn’t think it should. They would get stuck on stairs that other times I could run up or sometimes the character wouldn’t climb up a ledge, it’d just bounce off it like a stony ragdoll. This also extended to a couple of cutscenes that wouldn’t trigger and caused me to restart the game a few times and there’s a hide and seek mini game that I simply didn’t know I was playing until I read about it on the steam discussions. These are all minor niggles and do not change my overall impression of the game, which is one of joy and wonder. If the clipping issues get solved, bump another half point to a point on the score.
Scarf is an excellent game that nails its style and feeling perfectly. Whilst you might have to wrestle with the controls on a few occasions, the adventure is one that is emotional, fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s the first adventure game I’ve played in 2022 that I would give a total recommendation to anyone who enjoys atmospheric adventure games to play. Don’t sleep on this because it wears its influences on its scarf, it grows into its own body quite happily.
Review copy provided by developer.
A beautiful and entrancing adventure that goes out of its way to flow with ease. Like a scarf in the wind.
Beautiful visual design.
Upgrades to scarf open up new gameplay elements constantly.
Understated musical score that really sells the emotional journey.
Relatively low barrier to entry difficulty wise, but never dull.
Quite a few clipping glitches, scenes not triggering and the player getting stuck on environments you should be able to move across..
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