Growing up, I was an avid PC gamer. I loved all different types of games, but the most unique and at times frustrating games were always the LucasArts adventure games. The Dig, Maniac Mansion, and The Curse of Monkey Island stole weeks of my life, and I still find myself playing them through to this day.
Scarlett And The Spark of Life is a point-and-click adventure game that attempts to evoke memories of the long-gone era of deep and immersive plot-driven games. The plot begins with you having to go about saving a kidnapped princess, however the twist is that you are the princess! Scarlett isn’t your typical princess, she is resourceful and more than capable of getting herself out of trouble, and naturally, into even more down the road.
One of the most exciting things about adventure games is the story, so I will not be focusing on the details of the plot. Suffice to say, the story is rife with humor, quirky characters and pop culture references that don’t distract from the plot.
The iPod/iPad seems like a natural home for point-and-click style games, since there is no need for a traditional User Interface or shell to run the game. Simply tapping on the screen to move Scarlett is effortless and is effective in the design. I am surprised we haven’t seen that many high-quality adventure games on the iDevices by now.
The graphics are vibrant and bright, with characters standing out against the slightly unusual fantasy world. The only issue is there is very little activity throughout the game visually. While you are interacting there is a lot of movement, but then there are quite a few static scenes of woods or cities. It would have been nice to see birds moving occasionally or trees blowing to keep things interesting, as well as give hints on what is interactive.
The gameplay works, but can be a bit simplistic if you are well-versed in adventure games, but in case you aren’t, there is a star button in the bottom corner of the screen throughout the game. This is both a blessing and a curse. The star allows you to get hints on what is interactive in the scene, which is a godsend when you are stuck, but it also makes it tempting to just tap it to move along without really thinking first. The puzzles are unique and well done, a few gave me pause for a while, and one or two even made me turn off my iPod in frustration, which I consider a good thing. The “I Got It” moment when figuring a puzzle out is always worth the momentary rage. Other times I found myself slightly bored because I felt the game was holding my hand too much, and directing me down a preset path.
One small concern I must mention for those new to the Point and Click genre of games, is that once you figure out the puzzles and storyline(s), there is little reason to play through them again, so if you speed through the game to get to the end, you may feel it was “too short”, when it is designed to be a more paced experience than most games out there. The lack of replayability isn’t really a flaw in this game specifically, but in almost all adventure titles out there. I find it a blast to go back and play through a game I haven’t played in years but I don’t know if Scarlett & The Spark Of Life really can leave that kind of lasting impression just yet. I have to say that I am not a huge fan of the traditional high-fantasy setting and that may explain my lack of interest in going back through the game eventually, but that is just personal taste.
If you are expecting an epic tale on par with Grim Fandango or any number of adventure games out there, I hate to say it but this is not that game. Some will be turned off by the cartoony graphics, but of course others will be drawn to them. You will be staring at them for quite some time, so if you get bent out of shape at games with vibrant colors and well-drawn characters, then you may want to skip this title. However, If you are looking for a fun story-focused adventure and want to try something new, or if you are an old-school fantasy adventure game fan, Scarlett And The Spark of Life is a game worthy of a look, and will be a solid addition to your ever-expanding app library.