The scarf transformed into wings

Scarf review

Devoid of clear creative direction, Scarf starts unravelling.

(Image: © Uprising Studios)

Our Verdict

Scarf is a nice if not particularly original idea, disappointingly executed on almost all fronts.

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Need to know

What is it? A 3D puzzle platformer featuring a scarf
Expect to pay: £12.49
Release date: Out now
Developer: Uprising Studios
Publisher: HandyGames
Reviewed on: Ryzen 7 5800, RTX 3050, 16 GB
Multiplayer? No
Link: Official site

Many developers are influenced by other games, but no one's made their homage quite as obvious as Uprising Studios did here—one look at Scarf's titular piece of wool, and it's impossible not to feel reminded of Journey. While Scarf goes for a similar mood, it’s absolutely its own thing, for better and worse. More than just some magical thread, this garment is a sentient being, and the key to the game’s puzzle-platforming gameplay.

Scarf starts with your unnamed character coming into being: a little blue person with a funky haircut, anime eyes, no mouth and a black hole right in the middle of its chest. The scarf comes to them in the (very rough) shape of a Chinese dragon, calling them a hero, and saying that they, as a being of light, have been chosen to fix the scarf’s mother. None of this introduction makes sense, and yet it will be the last time Scarf will attempt any sort of explanation, opting instead to tell its story mostly non-verbally. 

(Image credit: Handygames)

What you end up doing, for lack of any clear direction, is explore different worlds connected by a central hub. In each of these worlds, you first reach and subsequently collect lights until you hit the end of a level and get transported back to the hub, where the light is used to unlock a large, ominous-looking gate.

Scarf’s marvellous soundtrack absolutely deserves a mention, as it’s the one element successful at creating a relaxing atmosphere.

Scarf is a simple platformer about getting from A to B—you simply follow the available path and collect some light. The scarf acts as a sort of Swiss army knife of platforming tools. At random points in a level, collecting a particularly large light will grant you a new ability, transforming the scarf into a pair of wings enabling a double jump or a glider to get over large chasms. You will also sometimes move platforms, jump across moving platforms, and press buttons—Scarf contains variations of most archetypal platforming game actions. 

A large variety of actions and tools usually helps keep a platformer varied and interesting, but Scarf feels like a random amalgamation of elements in their most basic form. At any point, it’s excruciatingly obvious what to do, simply for lack of any discernible alternative—if there is a platform to move, you drag it in the only direction it will go. If there is a lever that can’t be operated, you jump the three platforms to the other side of the dungeon that will lead to it.

It is a game completely devoid of challenge, calling itself relaxing when it’s really just dull. You could argue that Scarf is trying to appeal to players of all ages, but making something approachable to a wide audience and providing a relaxing experience doesn’t have to be simple to the point of being unengaging. Scarf unfortunately is just that. Add to that how your character is sluggishly animated and constantly makes sounds of exertion and doing anything in Scarf is just not as fun as the premise of a magical shawl suggests it could be. 

Loose threads

Scarf's marvellous soundtrack absolutely deserves a mention, as it's the one element successful at creating a relaxing atmosphere. The game’s visual presentation, meanwhile, is often beautiful, with long, sweeping travelling shots introducing each new bit of scenery. It's not quite as strong a visual feast as Journey, though, nor as polished. Unfortunately, too many moving elements tend to tank the framerate, closer inspection leaves textures looking quite muddy, and the hero is prone to clipping into surfaces at certain camera angles.

(Image credit: Handygames)

Story-wise, it will take the attentive observer roughly five minutes to figure out that Scarf isn’t meant to be a calm safe haven—that’s when your scarf transforms into a giant claw to suck at another small person’s essence. Scarf is as unsubtle with these narrative hints as it is with its puzzle solutions, pleading with you to get ready for its big twist. And it swerves between confusing non-verbal bits and painfully obvious narration by a spectacularly miscast voice actor.

This is a game that invites association to Journey, and generally promises no less than a good time, but it then wastes your time by locking its 'good' ending behind an otherwise pointless collectible hunt. This manages to casually render your efforts across Scarf’s 3- to 5-hour runtime entirely moot. Despite mimicking popular elements of other games, their implementation leaves a great deal to be desired. Scarf is nothing you haven’t seen better elsewhere, many times over.

Scarf is a game eager to use many elements that have generally proven popular, both in its gameplay and narrative, but their implementation suggests a lack of skill or resources to make them actually engaging. Looking beyond the attempt at what’s actually there, Scarf is nothing you haven’t seen better elsewhere, many times over.

The Verdict
Scarf review

Scarf is a nice if not particularly original idea, disappointingly executed on almost all fronts.