“What the hell is this?”
That’s all I had written after two weeks with Dark Scavenger: a single exasperated sentence, a handful of unhelpful screenshots and an intimidating blank text document filling the screen. I feel like I am scavenging in the dark recesses of my mind for something to say. It’s just so, so… odd.
From your first conversation with the gaping maw of a floating space blob to a subsequent adventure on an uncharted world, it seems unlikely that your brain will ever fully parse Dark Scavenger. It is a series of moment-to-moment jokes and daft interactions, where an overarching plot falls by the wayside. Despite the item collection, battles and branching story decisions to be made, this game only has one goal: to make you laugh. And it’s going to keep throwing terrible jokes at you until you crack a smile.
I cracked. There’s no other reason to keep playing. You journey through forests, bandit camps and fortresses in a strange text adventure, turn-based RPG hybrid. Neither aspect is particularly enticing by itself: your choices don’t have a great impact on the story, the battles are formulaic and static.
Rummaging through the scenery with your mouse pointer reveals hidden enemies and loot. Each item you find can be converted into a weapon, item or ally to use in battle. You’re never quite sure what the objects will do post-conversion, as the game prefers to offer a hilarious explanation rather than a descriptive one. Your companion Gazer has no mouth (hence the name) and must scream, resorting to wild gesticulations to describe allies, while Falsen resembles a demonic car salesman with no grip on reality.
It’s good at second-guessing the player and broadsiding them with a joke at all the right moments. Your real enemy is the writing and whether you can outsmart its perverse logic to avoid a tougher fight and gain a valuable relic. For want of a less obscure gaming reference, it’s like the quiz show from Earthworm Jim 2’s ‘Blind Cave Salamander’ level. Imagination is spent on the humour and characters at the expense of any compelling strategic battles or engrossing plot. One way of describing this might be ‘charming’. Another way is ‘crap.’ I am honestly not sure which it is.
By all rights, Dark Scavenger should be terrible. It’s deficient both technically and mechanically – it saves your game using your web browser’s cache, for crying out loud – but somehow, you can’t hate it despite its intrinsic rubbishness. There’s a charm to it, like it’s been developed by your goofy friend from high school: he doesn’t have a clue what makes a fun game, but he sure is funny, and he’s trying his best. Yet he’s also charging £8 for a game that is crude and clunky.
It’s bad. It’s not bad. Its nonsense makes sense. Is that… is that a MIDI soundtrack? I don’t like it. I don’t hate it. I don’t know.
Good thing you can download a demo.