Whooooo, this one's a toughie. See, I can appreciate how this could be someone's perfect game. Just like how I can see why some people think that Abba are musical geniuses. It just doesn't mean I'm the guy to tell you what's so great about them. And that's a problem. Because I'm a game reviewer, and Dark Scavenger is a game. And we have met like ships in the night and for a brief tryst, we were seeing each other. But it didn't really work out. Which isn't to say it was Dark Scavenger's fault, and I'm sure it will find true happiness in the hands of another man. And that's fine by me.
Thing is, I'm not one for retro. Which might come as a surprise even to those who know me well. Musically, i don't like much that came out later than the early nineties, and i can talk your ear off about the fine games of the ZX Spectrum era. But today, well, I'm ready to move onwards and upwards. Dark Scavenger feels like a product of the 8-bit era. A lot. There is nothing in the mechanics of the game that would have taxed a dinky little machine like the Commodore 64 or the ZX Spectrum too much - graphically it's early Commodore Amiga era at best - and even the humour feels a lot like the sort of thing you'd get in those halcyon days when the computer programmer was game designer, artist, writer and musician all rolled into one.
By which I mean it's certainly whimsical. The one thing I have to give it unconditionally is that it's original. Not so much in its gameplay but in its total disregard for the narrative lexicon that you can't help but absorb as a modern-day human being. With the exception of one character who looks a little bit like the Joker (or perhaps Jim Carrey in the Mask), and another who's vaguely similar in appearance to a Geiger Alien, everything seems to have been plucked wholesale from the minds of the devs. There's not much in the way of direct nods to pop culture, and that whole-cloth worldbuilding does allow for suspension of disbelief. In terms of actual gameplay, it's like a pretty traditional RPG / JRPG with a constant stream of new equipment and allies replacing the traditional character levelling. Every time you acquire a new piece of treasure, you can run it by your three scavenger chums who will offer to make it into something new for you. Their suggestions are somewhat cryptic a lot of the time (particularly Mr. Gigerface the alien, who can't talk and just kind of mimes the sort of abilities that the ally he'll give you might have).
Over time you build up a huge number of weapons, items and allies, each of which are multiple use and can be combined in combat to various effects depending on the foes, in a typical enough JRPG stylee. It does have some interesting little touches though, such as an ally who believes in people who speak out for themselves and will only attack foes with fewer than nine words in their on-screen bio. Exploration takes place screen-by-screen, with a couple of clickable locations in each area, which may result in combat or a multiple-choice text action scene, or a puzzle or whatever. Sometimes you're given the option to use your massive pile of loot outside of combat, whether this is one of the quest items you've gathered or one of your crafter gizmos. For instance, you might see something at the bottom of a pool of acid, and be given the option to fish it out using a long-handled item. Then it's up to you to dig through your inventory to find a weapon or item that might fit the bill - there's often not just one obvious correct option, and it all depends on the crafting choices you've made. The choices give a lot in the way of new directions, apparently, as well. Whether there's really enough itch-scratching here for you to want to play through it a second time will vary by player. For me - and, perhaps more so than for some other games I've played - I'm just the wrong guy for this. Back in the eighties, I would have quite liked Dark Scavenger, certainly well enough to give it a decent run. But now, I guess I need more from a game.
All of which is a very scathing and personal view on a game that, while it's not for me, is hard to fully pan. I'm so conflicted! Throw into the mix that it's less than five dollars on Steam, and I'm pleased to say that the best review would be to play it. There's a vivid streak of humour that runs through the game, and like humour, Dark Scavenger is very, very subjective and personal. So please take my score with a pinch of salt. One last thing, though - it's text-heavy. If you're not prepared to read loads of text, this isn't going to work for you. If you demand up-to-the-minute graphics and can't see beyond the scrappy, eight-bit look (okay, sixteen-bit at best) then you're not going to have fun. If the humour just doesn't work for you... give up now. But if you're a huge fan of offbeat comedy, Final Fantasy III and Pokemon Red, Dark Scavenger is going to do things to you. Fuzzy, moist things.