by Tanner Kinney One of the most iconic games of the golden days of game developer Rare is Conker’s Bad Fur Day. A game that originally was another collect-a-thon with cute animals and wacky antics, Rare rebuilt the game and made it an M-Rated classic. People always talk about how deceptive the game was, with its cutesy Rare art style combined with well-endowed flowers, heavy drinking, and a reaper named Greg. Yet, the game made its intentions very clear from the get-go, with plenty of warnings for those who aren’t comfortable with its brand of humor. I mention Conker, because The Spiral Scouts is a perfect successor in the line of cutesy-raunchy adventure games, complete with excellent puzzles, incredible music, a lovely art style, and an absolutely disgusting sense of humor that is a treat to experience. What else could be expected from the minds behind Huniepop?
Art like a pop-up book and music like Animal CrossingThe Spiral Scouts’ easily most defined feature (aside from its writing) is its art style. Inspired by classic children’s pop-up books, this game gives Paper Mario and Don’t Starve a run for their money in nailing the pop-up style. It’s pretty to look at, with many varied locations that are all well-defined. The scenery is pretty, and the areas that are used for puzzles all make it very clear what can and can’t be worked with, which is very helpful. It’s definitely lovely to look at, and there are plenty of cutesy characters that melt hearts until they start speaking. The only complaint is that usage of perspective, something Paper Mario does well with this art style, is very limited. The only times where things hidden behind objects come into play is with the collection quest for pubes. Yes, that’s real, and it’s really not that rewarding hunting them all down. The part of Spiral Scouts that hopefully won’t be underrated is the absolutely incredible soundtrack. It has shades of Animal Crossing, with how the music changes depending on location and time of day but keeps common motifs between all parts of the soundtrack. There are plenty of earworms, particularly the theme that plays at nighttime in the Realm of Life or the daytime music in the Realm of Chaos. The genius composer behind the soundtrack to Huniepop, the unsung hero of that game, puts out even more fantastic work in this game.
The double-edged “sword” of raunchy writingTo contrast The Spiral Scouts’ cutesy cartoon visuals and dynamic soundtrack is the writing. From the deranged, degenerate and beautiful mind behind Huniepop is another game that isn’t afraid to swear and make darker jokes. Alcoholism, depression, erectile dysfunction, pirates and butts all play a key role in the first area of game, and it only gets weirder and raunchier from there. Most of the time, the jokes absolutely land and do their job well. The result of solving the puzzle with the moon boy had me laughing out loud for way longer than it should have. As a mature adult, I have no regrets at how many times the toilet humor made me laugh or how many times the jokes about anxiety made me rethink my life while laughing. It made talking to the colorful NPC’s to get hints to solve puzzles so much more rewarding, since there was generally a good joke at the end of the rainbow. Yet, there are times when the humor gets excessive. Some people are capable of stomaching the constant barrage of raunchy jokes, and for the most part this game paces them out nicely between the puzzles, but sometimes it’s too much. By the end of the game I felt similarly to how I felt after finishing South Park: The Stick of Truth. The experience was enjoyable but probably not worth revisiting, especially after seeing everything there is to be seen. Additionally, for those who think themselves above toilet humor, this game likely isn’t for them either. In that way, the game’s writing is both its best asset and biggest weakness. Despite all that, it’s still worth it to play for moments like when I spent a solid twenty minutes on a puzzle, had a bolt of inspiration on how to solve it, and yelled out, “Aha! I knew it! The answer is P-O-R-N!”
Unique, intelligently designed, and fun puzzles tie it all togetherThe most surprising part of The Spiral Scouts is how the actual puzzle-adventure part of this game is possibly some of the best in genre. The puzzles are unique, interesting, varied and, most importantly, logical. As long as the player takes the game’s advice and keeps diligent notes while solving the puzzles, each one feels rewarding to solve. There are times when the sheer ridiculousness of the instructions for solving puzzles becomes completely normalized while trying to solve them, which leads to looking over the notes that were taken and then giggling like an idiot. The difficulty of the puzzles also ramps up nicely, with the more challenging puzzles appropriately being at the end of the game. As stated before, this game recommends the player to take notes. This is advice to be taken to heart, and as someone who has never really had to take notes to solve puzzles in most games like this, it was a breath of fresh air. There are so many puzzles in the game where just drawing a diagram of what’s right in front of one’s face makes it easier to solve, and that’s neat to see. Especially when compared games that tell the player to take notes, but the game is so easy it doesn’t matter at all (*cough* Omensight *cough*), this is a nice touch. My favorite puzzles in the game were the ones that involved elaborate diagrams and experimentation before they could be solved. It’s a lot more of a cerebral experience than the toilet humor of the game would make it seem. Perhaps that’s why the low-brow humor works so well in contrast with the intellectual puzzle solving. That’s not to say every puzzle requires notes. Some are simpler than others, and a couple can indeed be solved just by hitting switches randomly. Those who can solve the completely illogical puzzles from old point-and-clicks might not be satisfied with this game’s puzzles either. Despite that, anyone looking for puzzles that are actually interesting and well-designed will not be disappointed with this game.
Images: YouTube, Steam