Review – Scarf

I will be honest with you. I had completely forgotten about Scarf‘s existence. Originally unveiled way back in 2018, amidst the 3D platforming and indie adventure revivals caused by Super Mario Odyssey and RiME, Scarf looked really promising for the time. The problem is, the game vanished after its initial reveal. Time went by, literal thousands of games were released, and I had honestly assumed Scarf had been quietly cancelled by THQ Nordic and its developers. Fast forward to the final days of 2021 and the game is finally out, to little fanfare, and currently limited to PCs only. Welp, better late than never I guess. Let’s take a look at Scarf and see if it was worth the enormous wait.

Scarf Dragon

Yes, you can pet the dragon.

Scarf tells its story via a handful of decently voiced cutscenes, even if its premise didn’t click with me right from the get-go. You control an unnamed protagonist, a small spirit-like hero who decides to avenge the death of a majestic dragon by traveling through various worlds and assisting its child, a small baby dragon which can morph into various different objects, including the titular scarf the protagonist wears around his neck. A bit of a menial plot, but it gets the job done. It gives you a reason to venture through many worlds and to collect new abilities for your morphing dragon scarf.

The game itself is a bog standard platformer that doesn’t exactly provide you with a challenge. Nor does it intend to. It’s a short game that can be beaten in one, maybe two sessions, with simple platforming and puzzle solving that won’t require a lot of your brain mass to be completed. Scarf‘s intention is to use the gameplay as a mechanism to convey its storytelling and provide players with some adorable vistas along the way. It also boasts a few metroidvania-esque elements, as you can acquire new abilities for your scarf, such as gliding, double jumping, and a ballista mechanic, all of which can be used to look for collectibles off the game’s linear path.

Scarf Graphics

I can’t help but feel this would have been a much better fit on the Switch, instead of being, as of now, a PC exclusive.

Besides its plot, which is cute yet basic, Scarf tries to entice players with its presentation. It didn’t make my jaw drop, but its levels looked pretty cute, even if for some reason the framerate suffered a bit. Especially whenever I was venturing an area brimming with detail and particle effects, such as the main hub world, which plasters the screen with detailed grass effects, even on low graphical settings. All of this is accompanied by a handful of piano-driven songs, the ones you would expect from an indie game trying to convey an “emotional” plot, so to speak. I will admit that they were well-composed and performed, even if they didn’t exactly hit me in the feels as intended.

This is all good, but there’s this small issue, which is mostly a personal thing and not a technical flaw: we’ve seen this before. Countless times. Playing Scarf in 2021 feels like I’m just playing a game from years ago that just got lost in my backlog after a Steam Holiday Sale shopping spree. For as cute as the scarf morphing mechanics are, the level design is very reminiscent of RiME, the character designs reminded me a lot of Journey, and the overall presentation felt very similar to countless other “cutesy” indie adventures released over the past years.

That doesn’t make Scarf bad, far from it. It’s just that, weirdly enough, it feels a bit dated already. Uninteresting. The indie platformer landscape has changed significantly over the past few years, and what was once promising back in 2018 has been swept away by a barrage of newer, completely different takes on the genre. The advent of next-gen consoles and technologies also brought in new effects and presets already included in lower budgeted titles, making this game a borderline victim of its extremely long development cycle.

Platforming

Scarf’s platforming sections do not offer a challenge. You’re in for a smooth and (possibly) emotional ride.

Scarf is a good game, but not one that left an impression. I played it, enjoyed it while it lasted, but once I was done with it, all I could think about is that I would have enjoyed it a lot more three years ago, back when it was first announced, and back when 3D indie plaftormers were still a niche, a breath of fresh air in the market. This game was released a few years after the hype had died out, sadly enough. It’s still worth picking up if you’re a fan of titles like RiME, Journey, and Super Lucky’s Tale, but don’t expect to be wowed by it. 

 

Graphics: 7.5

Colorful, fantasy inspired visuals that reminded me a lot of RiME and similar story-driven platformers. Not jaw-dropping in any way, but pleasing to the eyes.

Gameplay: 7.0

Simple platforming and even simpler puzzle-solving thrown into a borderline laid back experience. The minuscule but noticeable metroidvania elements help make the game stand out just a tiny bit more.

Sound: 7.5

Even if the soundtrack didn’t exactly wow me with its emotional instrumentation and compositions, it was far from being considered bad. The voice acting was also pretty decent.

Fun Factor: 6.5

You have played countless other games like Scarf in the past. Even though it’s far from being an outright bad game, it’s hard to find anything in it that hasn’t been done many years ago.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Scarf is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Scarf was provided by the publisher.