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October 3, 2011

iPhone – Scarlett and The Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1 Review

by Master Pillow

Scarlett and The Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1 is the first part in a new series of 2D adventure games that, while incredibly short, has more than enough quirky humour to hold your interest especially since it feels like a spiritual successor to such Sierra On-Line games of old like King’s Quest or Lucasart’s Day of the Tentacle.  I realize that comparing anything contemporary to such classics might sound like heresy but such is the state of 2D adventure gaming that has been on life support for decades that a relatively brief game like Scarlett and The Spark of Life is enough to excite most jaded adventure gamers.

The game opens with our young plucky heroine, Princess Scarlett, waking up on a horse only to discover that she has somehow been kidnapped but do not fret as she is not your usual Princess Peach who spends most of her life waiting for Mario to save her.  In fact, she’s not only got brains she has feisty wit and a sharp tongue to back her up and in no time she’s escaped her capturers only to find herself in a small township that would fit right in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone albeit laced with a large dose of Monty Python humour.

This is a town that has an unhealthy idolization of a certain animal called Polcalcos that scare horses to no end, a pair of squabbling neighbours, an eccentric old janitor who seems to know too much and of course a mechanical demon horse with visions of grandeur.  Without revealing more all I will say is that nearly everyone in the town comes off as a fully rounded character with most having hilariously overwrought dialogue.

As you might have guessed by now, the game’s story is the real highlight here but make no mistake, developer Launching Pad Games has fashioned an intuitive and easy to control scheme that feels like it really takes advantage of the iPod touch/iPhone’s touchscreen.  Controlling Scarlett is as easy as tapping on the screen to order her to move where you wish and interacting with various objects is done much the same way.  Although none of the puzzles here are too intricate there will still be a few that take some thinking.

As is customary with adventure gaming, Scarlett can pick up items from one location and use them somewhere else.  Again, the control scheme is straightforward by merely opening the inventory and then dragging the appropriate item onto the screen where you want to use it. The game also makes good use of dialogue trees as the different choices are not pale copies of one another and most are dripping with sly sarcasm.  Unfortunately, these choices don’t lead to branching storylines as the game will still funnel the player towards the same linear progression.

While I cannot say that the game has glorious 2D art its simple bright but clean style does grow on you and thankfully the characters are well animated.  There is also a star icon at the bottom right of the screen that functions as a handy tool as when pressed it highlights all the objects on the screen that the player can interact with.  Die-hard adventure gaming fans might see this as cheating yet for casuals this is perfect and is a great solution for excessive pixel searching trying to discover what can or cannot be clicked.

So far so good yet the biggest negative is the game’s extreme brevity and almost total lack of replay value.  While I cannot fault the game for the latter as all adventure games have the same issue there is still no doubting that most players will finish the episode in around 60-90 minutes.  I for one loved every second of it yet I also have to admit that the app is just sitting dormant on my iPhone 4 awaiting the second episode.

Finishing the game once unlocks the bonus special visual commentary feature that gives some insightful information at various points during the game showing some behind the scenes work that the developer went through.  Think of it as akin to a director’s commentary that is usually found on most Blu-Ray movie releases wherein the director talks about his/her work throughout the entire running time. For instance, the first entry comments on how the developer managed to create the first scene which introduces Scarlett already kidnapped and bound.  While this is certainly a pleasant enough bonus feature it in no way changes the game as replaying it a second time results in exactly the same experience.

Options are par for the course with the ability to turn sound effects and music on and off and the game does have OpenFeint support with achievements to unlock.  Some players might be disappointed that there are no voiceovers but this adds to the old-school adventure game appeal and atmosphere as does the appropriately light instrumental soundtrack.

I remember growing up in the 1980s and literally waiting with baited breath for any new Sierra Online adventure game and none disappointed.  Scarlett and The Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1 might not reach those lofty heights yet at the end of the game I couldn’t help but wish that episode two were out as soon as possible so I could continue with the clever narrative and that alone is enough to make me recommend this game to adventure gamers everywhere.  However, doing a brief check of the game’s iTunes page it shows that the developer, Launching Pad Games, has added a few comments stating that the game hasn’t really sold enough to warrant a second episode which is a bit of a downer.  Hopefully their blunt admission will stir gamers to check episode 1 out.

*** out of ****

Reviewed On: iPhone 4

Date: Feb 1, 2011

Reviewed Version: 1.2.1

Size:  42.7 MB

Developer: Launching Pad Games

© 2011 The Galactic Pillow

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