Picture this: A Science Fiction RPG in which you must, while fighting against hordes of aliens, maintain and manage relationships with another group of aliens as you navigate traps, battles, and game-changing decisions along the way. Sounds a bit like Mass Effect, doesn’t it? Now Imagine all that, but through the scope of Douglas Adams-type humor as well as a graphics engine and interface straight outta 1987, and you have Dark Scavenger by Psydra Games. Do all these elements work together to create a consistently fun and challenging experience? Hit the jump to find out.
The control scheme of Dark Scavenger consists entirely of clicking on boxes to choose moves during battle, to investigate items in the world, and to choose dialogue options. There is no time limit on any of these functions, so in that sense the game is quite low-stress. At the beginning, it does a nice job of teaching you the game mechanics, so you are immediately prepared to get into things without a whole lot of preamble. There are two main perspectives in Dark Scavenger: First is an overhead, static view of the environment which contains Items that can be investigated. The other perspective is the battle screen, which shows the enemy/enemies from your perspective.
In battle, you can choose from three main options: Weapons, Items, and Allies. Each of these are acquired by finding loot and taking it to your allies, who can then craft it into something useful depending on what category they represent. It is an incredibly simple yet effective mechanic that gets you reloaded with what you need (mostly) and back to the game without having to navigate the menu system labyrinth that plagues most RPGs old and new.
In Dark Scavenger, your character never levels-up or becomes more powerful; you start with 100 HP and it stays that way. This game is all about item management, which can make playing it a trial and error experience if you make bad choices with items. While it can be somewhat frustrating learning after the fact that you had used up a critical item at an inopportune time. Thankfully, the game does provide you with three respawn options upon death: You can revive at the beginning of that battle, at the beginning of that room, or at the beginning of the chapter. This option allows you to retry a battle using different items and tactics before deciding to step back and try again from an earlier point.
[+Simple control scheme] [+Clear tutorial] [+Not menu-heavy] [+Simple yet deep combat mechanic] [+Multiple respawn options] [*Item management skills essential] [*Highly trial and error] [-Sometimes required to redo areas]
Dark Scavenger opens with your character fighting what is to be the final boss (and getting your ass kicked). The purpose of the game is to explore an alien planet and defeat enemies as you search for fuel to launch your ship back into space. Along the way, you are assisted by three alien crafters, Kamano (Weapons), Falsen (Items), and Gazer (Allies). As well as stocking you with equipment, they provide much of the comic relief.
The game world is incredibly low-tech, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s colorful and beautifully drawn, and the writing is funny and clever. Then again, while it is clear the developers are reaching for an old-school presentation for Dark Scavenger, a little bit of variety in the visuals (particularly in combat) would have been a nice touch. As it is, the combat feedback is simply represented as a number and a declining life bar. Having damage or status represented by something more visual would add to the overall presentation of this game.
[+Clever, funny writing] [+Clean, simple interface] [+Imaginative and charming] [-No visual variety within battles]
Dark Scavenger is available on PC and Mac for a cool $5. While it might not look like much of a game on the surface, it does stand up to multiple playthroughs. In most cases, you have multiple options for crafting loot. Each decision opens up different gameplay possibilities and constraints. For the hardcore, there is certainly the opportunity to play through using only one crafter, or using minimal items. There really are a multitude of possibilities for players willing to explore the depths of this game.
[+High replay value] [+Only $5] [+Multiple story/gameplay paths]
This is not a super long game, but the replayability options more than make up for it. This is a super easy game to sit down and start playing, but it is mechanically much deeper and more involving than it lets on. If refined but old-school mechanics were all Dark Scavenger brought to the table, I would happily recommend it. Throw in some clever, knowing, and genuinely funny writing, and I’d move this game up into ‘must have’ territory. For gamers who were not old enough to have experienced these types of games the first time around, it’s a great introduction to it without having to suffer from a lot of the game-breaking issues that plagued titles of that era. For $5, it will give you far more than that amount in value.
[+Simple control scheme] [+Clear tutorial] [+Not menu-heavy] [+Simple yet deep combat mechanic] [+Multiple respawn options] [+Clever, funny writing] [+Clean, simple interface] [+Imaginative and charming] [+High replay value] [+Only $5] [+Multiple story/gameplay paths] [*Item management skills essential] [*Highly trial and error] [-Sometimes required to redo areas] [-No visual variety within battles]