Games like Scarlet and the Spark of Life are a perfect fit for the mobile devices, but developers are still searching for the best way to make them work.
Scarlet plays out like a single mission from a larger adventure game. In fact, I feel like I played this exact same sequence in a King’s Quest game years ago. That’s not a knock: it’s been kind of refreshing to find good old fashioned adventure gaming making a bit of a comeback in recent years.
Scarlet has everything you remember from the old adventure games: long dialog sequences, a few locations that are traversed endlessly, objects to collect and use, puzzles to solve, and a bit of a story to tell. The dialog is the usual mixture of witty banter and lame jokes, but it’s fairly well done for the genre and doesn’t drag on too long. The puzzles are almost all object-based, and since you only have a few locations, you don’t ever have too many objects to try out. Even so, one puzzle takes a bit of time to figure out: not because it’s difficult, but because it’s illogical. (Hint: use the bird’s nest on the rocks.)
This is the only challenge that’s a problem, however, and the rest are a fairly pleasing collection of object use, dialog, and single-screen puzzles. None of it will slow down an experienced gamer for more than an hour, and this is is where Scarlet runs into some trouble. Since this is subtitled “Scarlet Adventures: Episode 1,” this first game is clearly intended as a sliver of a larger game. That’s wonderful: I love that kind format, and would like to see more people implementing episodic gaming, with new chapters ever month or even every week.
A $3 price tag, however, is not going to work for this kind of format. I rarely balk at prices, since $3 is still plenty cheap for a decent game. But Scarlet needs to either be a little less expensive or offer a bit more gameplay for this to work, particularly if Launching Pad Games intends to release these on a regular schedule.
There are some illogical bits in the design, such as boxes of wool that don’t quite work correctly and a bit too much back-and-forthing, but these are innocuous annoyances. Visually, the game is quite strong, with bright colors and whimsical designs.
Scarlet is a good 1 hour adventure game for fans of the genre, but it’s a probably a better bet for tweens and pre-tweens. It’s a good start to a series: it just needs to be longer or cheaper.