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Feb 2, 2012
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By Matthew Scott Hunter

‘Scarygirl’

(E10+)

**1/2

Square Enix

Xbox Live Arcade

If you’re unfamiliar with “Scarygirl,” it’s a graphic novel with the kind of cute-meets-creepy art style that is just begging for a film adaptation by Tim Burton. In fact, the titular heroine seems like she’d be right at home alongside Jack Skellington in “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” She’s a pale, stitch-lipped, eye-patch-wearing little girl who was raised by an octopus and has the tentacle to prove it. It isn’t long before she embarks on a sidescrolling quest through worlds familiar to anyone who’s ever played a platformer, albeit filled with the graphic novel’s admittedly eye-catching, signature aesthetic, and narrated by a deep voice who frequently manages to be simultaneously amusing and foreboding. The problem is that, for all the game’s stylish flair, it isn’t particularly fun to play.

The controls feel a bit too slippery and imprecise. For example, when you release the analog stick, Scarygirl opts to go ahead and take a couple more steps. Fortunately, her octopus arm functions as a propeller, often allowing you to hover to safety in those situations when Scarygirl has taken one step too many. But as the game becomes more combat heavy in later levels, Scarygirl’s responsiveness shortcomings become an endless source of frustration. As is becoming the norm with 2D platformers, a friend can drop in to assist at any time, but as Scarygirl’s mystic friend Bunniguru, Player 2 has a different move-set and is all but useless in the game’s boss battles. With fantastic new releases like “Rayman Origins” and “Donkey Kong Country Returns,” the 2D sidescroller genre is experiencing a renaissance. Scarygirl needs to work a lot harder on her platforming skills if she wants to compete.

‘Quarrel’

(E10+)

***1/2

Denki/UTV Ignition Games

Xbox Live Arcade

At last, wordsmiths will rule the world! — at least the world as presented in “Quarrel,” a game that’s equal parts “Risk” and “Scrabble.” As in “Risk,” the ultimate goal is to capture the most territory, but battles are waged with words rather than weapons. The more troops you devote to a given skirmish, the more letters you can use to construct your word, whose point value will inevitably determine victory or defeat. Once the smoke clears, the world will be ruled by someone with a truly impressive vocabulary — a dictator with good diction!

‘Zombie Attack’

(E10+)

½*

Gamers Digital

WiiWare

The world is being taken over by zombies (yawn…again), and mankind’s only hope is your giant slingshot. See, the doctor needs to experiment on the zombies in order to find a cure, and the best way for you to keep him supplied with fresh corpses is to fire the undead from your slingshot into the receptacle held by the doctor’s waiting helicopter. This premise clearly indicates that the designers of this game had their own brains eaten by zombies very early in development. The sporadically functional controls and pre-Nintendo 64-era graphics seem to confirm this.



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