SCARF Review – PC

What an incredible year for gaming; especially when it comes to indie games, and the hits just keep piling on, this time with the adorable platform-adventure, Scarf.  I have to admit that when I first saw the logo I was preparing for a derivative of another famous game involving a scarf, Journey, but Uprising Studios has really knocked this one out of the park with an imaginative, charming, and at times, challenging adventure that will delight young and old alike.

Like most modern games of this era you are thrust into the game with no knowledge of who you are, why you are here, what you need to do, or even how to do it.  It’s a delicate balance of frustration and discovery, as you slowly figure things out during your journey.    You’ll be playing as what can best be described as a young boy with white almost glowing skin, a hole through his chest, and a tuft of hair that would make Bart Simpson envious.  We quickly meet up with a magical red dragon – the Chinese serpent kind, not the D&D kind, who is able to shapeshift into a glittering scarf that you will wear proudly for most of the game.

This scarf is capable of many forms that grant our hero several abilities such as double-jump/glide, a scarf swing, slingshot, and even hang glider wings.  In additional to granting you all these wonderful abilities the scarf is actually a sentient being that will, at times, get frightened and flee from your neck if you get too close to “evil”.  It might also rush ahead to help guide you on your journey or point out useful items.  It can also get sick and you’ll need to collect healing items to make him well.  There is definitely a sense of companionship with the scarf where you can even pet it to strengthen your bond.

The game flow is fairly basic stuff.  After a short tutorial section you reach a hub area with multiple portals leading into themed environments like the ocean, desert, and forest.  You’ll enter into these wondrous worlds exploring and gathering the numerous collectible items such as scarf fragments, assorted puzzle-solving components, and a random assortment of well-hidden animal toys.  Much of the game is figuring out where to go and how to get there.  There are bridges and structures that are out of phase and you’ll need to find and insert purple gems into sockets to make them solid.  You’ll also need to collect all the fabric collectibles to use at the obelisk to reach the exit to each world.

The levels are surprisingly large; one of which requires you to locate two gears which are stashed away in side-quest levels that are larger than the main area.  The world design is wildly imaginative and created with a unique and fanciful art style.  Environmental puzzles are moderately challenging, especially when they having you combining multiple scarf abilities into a single challenge.  Swinging across bottomless chasms or using powerful updrafts to gain altitude in your hang glider can be exhilarating while exploring the ocean depths using a magical air pocket is as nerve-racking as it is thrilling.

I really don’t have too much criticism for Scarf.  I was slightly annoying that the performance wasn’t as good as it should have been for a game that has chosen this simplified art style.  Actual gameplay was flawless running at 4K on my RTX3080 card, but the game would stutter during these cinematic camera pans frequently used to introduce new areas or story elements.  Dropping to 1440p smoothed everything out.  The sound design is fantastic with great environmental effects and a magical soundtrack, but the audio levels were crazy.  Not only did I have to turn my AV receiver down by 10db I also had to go into the game options and lower the master volume down to a six to reach a comfortable listening level, and even then it messed with my mixer settings, so the game totally overpowered my commentary in my video playthrough.

It’s also worth noting that Scarf can be finished in 3-4 hours – add another hour or two if you want to find all the collectibles and unlock all 25 achievements.  Arguably, that is a short game, but at only $15 the quality certainly makes up for any lack of longevity.  I’d rather have a compact magical adventure that I can finish in a couple of sessions than some game that was dragging things along just to satisfy the clock-watch gamers out there.  And based on how thoroughly you explore this enchanted world you may just discover an alternate ending.

If you are looking for a great escape from the harsh realities of 2021 or maybe you want to kick off 2022 with a fantastic platforming adventure then look no further than Scarf.  With its charming visuals, cryptic yet captivating narrative, magical soundtrack, and a focus on exploration, discovery, and thoughtful puzzle-solving versus any hint of combat or aggression, Scarf is the perfect game to transition us into a new year of epic indie gaming.

If you’d like to see Scarf in action please check out our First Look game video where we explore the first two worlds (Ocean and Desert).

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