As the gaming parent of a young gamer, one of the biggest problems I have is finding games that are not only age appropriate, but fun and engaging as well. In a market dominated by licensed characters and rip-offs, its refreshing every once in a while to see a game that provides an appropriate experience for it’s core audience while maintaining some originality.
In Scaler, you play the role of Bobby Jenkins, a smart-mouthed 12 year-old who has stumbled into his evil next-door neighbors plot to destroy the world with an army of mutant lizard’s. In typical unlikely hero fashion, Bobby gets captured, zapped by a strange energy beam, and turned into a shape-shifting chameleon-like creature before escaping into the lizard realm, where he has to single-handedly stop the lizard army invasion.
This review will include some observations of my 6 year-old son, who really took a liking to this game.
Lush, expansive environments and a stunning color palette really set this platformer above the rest of the pack. The game has a real Technicolor feel to it, with nicely animated characters and fantastical worlds. Animations are very smooth, and there is an overall organic quality to the lushly populated settings. Graphical special effects are really nice, and I particularly like the environment changing ‘pollen’ that, once released into the air, gives everything a new color scheme in a sparkling yellow cloud. The only real hitch in the graphics come with the game engine cutscenes. Oddly enough, animations seemed a little choppier here than in the actual game, and lip-syncing was a bit off at times.
The voice-over in the game is quite good, and each character has been given a very distinct personality. It seems all of the characters in Scaler have a smarmy attitude, and the actors really play it up to good effect. The music and sound effects are adequate; nothing to scream about but certainly contributing to the overall experience.
Game controls are simplistic yet intuitive. My son had no problem diving right into the game and was eventually able to pull off some of the more complex moves of the game. Mind you, they weren’t very complex but they never really needed to be. Sometimes the camera angles would get a little awkward, but I have yet to see a game in this perspective NOT have the occasional camera issue.
Probably the weakest part of Scaler lies in its story. The setup is
pretty vague and confusing, with little explanation given for why Bobby is being
held captive, or why he knows the identities of his lizard captors. It
doesn’t take very long for the actual game to start, though, and once it does,
the story hardly matters.
Basically, the goal is to travel from level to level, rescuing lizard eggs
from the clutches of the evil lizard men who want to mutate them into lizard
super-soldiers. Besides the lizard eggs, you also have to collect Crystal Gems
and glowing balls called Klokkies. The accumulation of Crystal Gems is what
unlocks the various worlds, while Klokkies can be used to upgrade the base set
of abilities (such as adding to your health meter, or increasing attack damage)
via Leon, a scientist who was also turned into a lizard and transported to the
lizard dimension. Leon facilitates power upgrades, game saves, and
transportation between levels.
Level design is actually quite ingenious, and all of the abilities of Scaler
himself, as well as the creatures heeventually learns how to morph into are all
well utilized by the design. Most platformers today have atendency to get
stale in spots, with potential game-killing areas that just seem tedious to work
through,but Scaler keeps things fresh, with compelling new styles of play
popping up at just the right time as you make your way through it.
Two things really stand out in Scaler’s gameplay- The first is the
rail-sliding on vines that features prominently on just about every level; Just
jump onto a vine and grind across the landscape in rollercoaster fashion,
picking up Klokkies and charging up your static bombs along the way (a static
bomb is your typical ‘clear the screen’ type super weapon). Griffin, my son,
spent several long stretches just sliding through these segments and had a
Most games would just stop right there and have that be their big gimmick,
but the most enjoyable and striking aspect of the game is the shape-changing
power that you are able to use in certain levels. After defeating a set
number of any particular enemy, scaler gains the ability to transform into that
enemy, which opens up a whole new range of powers and ways to play the
game. One of the creature-forms (Krock) enables you to roll into a
ball, novel at first, but leading into almost Sonic The Hedgehog style
gameplay and time trial racing levels later on in the game. Another form,
Badukan, gives you the ability to generate round bombs, which you can roll
bowling style, exploding on target. The Doozum, Swoom, and Fruzard forms
give you flight, swimming, and a projectile weapon, respectively. Griffin
spent hours playing with the various forms just for the sake of playing
them. I even discovered him acting some of the moves
out on his
Most experienced gamers will find this game a little on the short side, but
most kids, the actual target audience, will probably think its just right.
Like most modern platform games, there are several secondary goals for each
level in addition to the primary one that progresses the game. Collecting
extra Klokkies, for instance, can unlock production art.
Ultimately, there’s nothing really too terribly compelling to make you replay
the game, but it certainly is fun while it lasts.