The platform genre has seen its share of rough times. Between innovating titles such as Mario 64 and the umpteen clones that followed, gamers saw the rise and fall of several three dimensional worlds and the heroes inhabiting them.
The latest entry, Scaler, sits in the upper-middle class of platformer society. It borrows heavily from its predecessors such as Tak and The Power of Juju, but still manages to eek out its own brand of action and style grounded in solid game mechanics.
In Scaler, you assume the role of Bobby Jenkins, lizard-loving hippie extraordinaire. He picks stuff off his feet and eats it, makes fart noises with his arm pits and scratches his ass. Like most unlikely heroes, Bobby accidentally stumbles upon a global conspiracy and unwitting finds himself at odds with nefarious villains.
Only this time, the villains take the shape of sentient, man-size lizards bent on dominating the world. But that's just a piece of the puzzle. According to the Scaler version of things, the Earth is but a speck in the universe. The universe, in turn, is but a speck within the "Multiverse."
A network of unstable portals connects all the different worlds throughout multiverse. The being in control of such portals could swiftly move throughout the known multiverse taking over civilizations, burning crops and raping peasants.
- Transform into five different characters, each with unique abilities.
- Explore 10 large worlds filled with hazardous wildlife.
- Take out enemies with your tongue attack and claw attack.
- Collect 100 Crystal Gems to unlock bonuses.
- Upgrade abilities by collecting thousands of "Klokkies."
- Vine-ride through environments at high speed.
- Use static-electric bomb attack to stun foes.
The main villain in Scaler, Looger, assumes such control over the series of portals with a device being developed by a human named Leon. After sucking Leon into a funky dimension, Looger steals the portal stabilizing contraption and sets out to control the multiverse.
This is when Bobby "Scaler" Jenkins finds himself accosted by a group of Looger's thugs and accidentally zapped into the same bizarre dimension as the scientist Leon. Together, they set out to battle Looger and his army of mutated lizards before they trash the multiverse. In terms of narrative, Scaler offers about as much depth as an average cartoon, but then again, so do most games. Having said that, the plot mirrors the sense of whimsical fancy permeating the entire game, so in that sense it's quite fitting.
For the most part, Scaler plays much like any other modern platformer. You can ride vines like a pro skater, hang off ledges and double jump. You'll trek through alien worlds collecting things, in this case glowing energy balls called Klokkies, which closely resemble the "kid tested, mother approved" Kix cereal. Every creature killed and every objective cleared results in a geyser of Klokkies you'll need to collect. You'll also need to collect Crystal Gems. These basketball-sized gems are worth 500 Klokkies a piece and each level (of which there are 10) contains 10.
Apart from giving you a ton of Klokkies, Crystal Gems act like keys to gain access to different levels. Each level has a Crystal Gem requirement, so finding the required number is imperative if you hope to finish the game. While you don't need to collect all 100 Crystal Gems to complete the game, doing so anyway pays off in a few ways. First, you can take the Klokkies and purchase valuable upgrades that increase your health meter or increase the power of your attacks, for example. You can also hunt for Crystal Gems to unlock character art in Scaler's gallery. While hoarding Klokkies and Crystal Gems will buy you bonuses, your ultimate goal is finding 20 Lizard Eggs strewn about Scaler's 10 levels. These are the very eggs Looger hopes to mutate into a ravenous lizard army so he may enslave the multiverse.
Of course, finding them requires you to trek through otherworldly locales brimming with hazardous wildlife, not to mention genetically altered super lizards. Luckily, Scaler offers the means to travel and trample all over the multiverse. You have two main weapons in the game: sharp claws and a quick tongue (literally.)
Using your tongue on smaller creatures usually kills them, but it only stuns larger ones. But what you really need the tongue for is speed and its capacity to nail multiple critters in one fell swoop. Swarms of hostile critters will surround you at every turn, especially toward the beginning of the game, and using your tongue quickly brings them down.
The responsiveness and speed of the tongue attack make it one satisfying and invaluable weapon through the game. Your claws, on the other hand, dish out far more damage but you won't use them quite as often. Many of the enemies in Scaler only come up to your ankles, so using your claws often leaves you open to attack. When facing a boss, however, you'll need to use your claws as the tongue attack becomes useless.
You'll quickly discover that different enemies require different methods of attack. Little explosive critters known as "Hidden Crabs" should be dodged and not attacked, for example. Sure, you can take them out before they explode but you run the risk of a crab detonating inches away from your face. Spidery creatures known as "Arachnos" often swarm, making the tongue attack the offensive action of choice. The man-size "Zarpac" rushes at you, leaving himself vulnerable from the rear, allowing you to move in with your claws to take him out from behind.
You can improve your claw attack and health meter by purchasing upgrades using collected Klokkies. In addition to upgrades, you can also evolve into five different types of enemies by defeating a specific number of a particular species. Your first transformation takes place during the second stage. You'll evolve into one of the "Bakuden," a mischievous race of toddler-like animals that carry explosive orbs. You then explosive abilities to blow open metal cases and gain access to previously impenetrable areas.
Each transformation is equally cool and useful, providing plenty of fun without feeling gimmicky. Turning into a "Krock" lets you roll up into a spiked ball and plow through enemies. You can also ride parallel beams (think rollercoaster ride) to access new sections of the environment.
The "Doozum" resembles a bat, allowing you to take to the skies and shoot enemies using a sonar attack. Like the previous transformations, using the Doozum form lets you access new areas. Transforming into one of the five creatures only takes a touch of a button, and each holds a vital role in level progression.
You'll navigate the game world using a large map. The map represents each locale with a stenciled drawing. You're free to visit previously explored areas whenever you like, and chances are you'll need to if you want to find all the Crystal Gems. While not truly open ended, Scaler offers a decent amount of freedom amongst its 15 diverse locations.
Plowing through each of the game's areas and defeating all the bosses should take the average gamer no longer than 12 hours, but when you factor in the fact that Scaler costs less than 20 bucks, well, that's quite a bargain. While retaining the same style and "feel," each area looks different from each other, providing some great eye candy. In fact, Scaler is one pretty game in general.
Scaler boasts silky smooth animation and cool graphical effects. Each environment feels alive and looks decidedly organic, with swaying plant life and fluttering creatures buzzing around everywhere. You'll see looming mushrooms in the background and cross ponds using overgrown lily pads. Since the game takes place in some far flung dimension, it looks as though the artists implemented whatever they wanted.
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