Dark Scavenger

"Dark Scavenger is simply a lighthearted way to while away some time."

Steam Greenlight has enabled independent developers to find footing and expand on budding ideas, providing a growing swath of indie games. Dark Scavenger, a point-and-click game combined with turn-based battles, promises a bizarre, but meaningful, adventure. Does Psydra Games' debut game live up to its hype?

You awake as a Dark Scavenger, floating through space encountering an alien mass that attempts to absorb you. After fending off the blob, you wake up exhausted on a spacecraft with three beings: Kamaho, a skeleton with lingering skin; Falsen, a creepy green man with a perpetual crazy grin; and Gazer, a mute alien with four forearms. Kamaho and Falsen cheerfully inform you that the ship has run out of fuel and you need to descend to the planet it orbits to obtain a new fuel source. With no option to leave and carry on your merry way, you eventually oblige.

Full of chaos, the planet you arrive on is awash with conflict between different factions vying for power. Your goal, however, is simply to acquire the fuel to leave. The result is a bloodbath with little substance as you battle your way to the energy source, but the game never takes itself seriously. Conversations and response selections run the gamut from logical to absolutely insane. Though I never found any laugh-out-loud moments, the inanity provided mild amusement from time to time. While the game provides options that appear to affect the outcome, I felt that my choices had absolutely no impact on the ending — an effect on certain parts of the progress, yes, but ultimately inconsequential. For this particular reason, the player is given the option to be as belligerent as they wish. Kill all in your path and revel in their despondence, or attempt to reason a way out of violence — the choice is yours, but the end is always the same.

On land, you can click around to interact with objects and terrain. Each clickable location could result in a conversation and/or acquisition of a new item. As you move between map areas by selecting arrows on the edges, Kamaho, Falsen, and Gazer can turn the loot you collected into equipment. Kamaho deals with combat weapons, Falsen with healing, status, and damage-boosting items, and Gazer with allies that can be summoned. I highly suspect that each map area carries the potential to earn up to three new items, which is the maximum allocatable slots. Since Kamaho, Falsen, and Gazer can only be "used" once between each area, the player needs to carefully consider the loot distribution based on haphazard descriptions by the three. Kamaho provides the clearest details, while Falsen bounces between moments of clarity and insanity, and Gazer mimes an ally's capabilities.

Certainly a unique way to gain equipment, the system ensures an extensive labyrinth of possible weapons that begets multiple playthroughs. Unfortunately, during the turn-based battles, choosing an action becomes a laborious task as one scrolls through three columns of accumulated items. For example, I had almost forty weapons near the end of the game, and with the window only showing five at a time, trying to find the right weapon can be a real chore. Furthermore, each weapon or ally has its own elemental effect, damage range, stun chance, possible special effect, and type that is only visible when moused over. So, when a location interaction asks you to pick out a blunt weapon or heavy ally to crush some skulls, the options can seem overwhelming. Additionally, you have to select an offensive attack every battle turn! Each inventory item only possesses a fixed number of uses per chapter, so players will have to choose wisely between gambling awesome items for new unlockable ones and saving them for crucial battles.

The hand-drawn visuals, although vibrantly colored, are rough and scrappy, making immersion difficult. Minimal animations and frequent reuse of enemy images across all chapters leave much to the imagination. For the most part, the game is silent, save for battle music and sound effects. The battle and boss themes are mainly variations of a particular melody — one that was engaging at first, but soon wore out its welcome as the pieces began blending together. It's a catchy tune, but not catchy enough to weather the entire game.

I really enjoyed the equipment system and the point-and-click turn-based gameplay. Unfortunately, none of the game's other elements hold up to the same standard. Amusing as the conversations are, the lack of a solid plot hinders any illusion of character development: all you have to worry about is getting from point A to B, in whatever manner you wish. Perhaps a deeper approach may work for a future installment, but for now, Dark Scavenger is simply a lighthearted way to while away some time.

© 2014 Psydra Games LLC. All rights reserved.

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