It's not been a good day. Drifting through space with just a bunch of old junk, encountering the mysterious and sinister creature known only as Den (and fighting to avoid being Den's dinner), it looked as though the end was near. Then, from nowhere, rescue! Picked up by three bizarre aliens in their spacecraft, you've been given a new lease of life, joining their band of Dark Scavengers. Except there's a problem. The spacecraft is dangerously low on fuel, and unless they can find a power source on the nearby planet, your new lease of life may prove short. Still, no problem, right? Well, maybe. Several alien races are at war on this mysterious planet, not to mention the deadly and unpredictable effects of the bizarre orange liquid that they are fighting over, known as Gissa. Your life may prove even shorter than you thought.
Dark Scavenger is possibly one of the most demented games I've played in some time. You follow the game plot by exploring a range of locations (screens) and clicking on things to explore in each location. Some of these can lead to combat. Some will reveal useful loot. Some are traps that will cause you harm. Eventually you will finish each chapter with a boss fight. To aid you in battle (or other quests), you have a range of equipment - various weapons of different types and effects, support items and allies you can call on. All these things have limited uses before they expire, and some items will be more effective against certain foes than others.
Fortunately, while your new allies may be rubbish fighters, they are top class (if unconventional) engineers. Any loot you find on the planet can be converted back on your ship into a range of useful tools - Kamaho can craft a range of bizarre weapons, Falsen can make all manner of equally bizarre support items and the silent Gazer can use them to summon allies. It's up to you to decide which crafter will make the most of each item - and their descriptions are not always helpful. Falsen is quite mad, and Gazer has to express himself through elaborate charades.
The cartoon graphics work reasonably well, though there isn't any real animation. Characters drift across the screen occasionally, with the most complex instance being the time Juro assisted me in taking out a three-headed beast. All the characters you meet (particularly your fellow Scavengers!) are quite odd, which fits the downright weird style of the rest of the game. One disappointment is that we don't get to see any of the weapons or items we use - most of the game is textual. Slow readers are encouraged to make the effort, however, as the humour and storyline really play out here.
There are plenty of sound effects to accompany both combat and events, and each location has some background noise to accompany it. Music is limited to the title screen and battle sequences, with a slightly different variation of the battle music for boss battles. Music and sound effects can both be turned off in the options menu.
Dark Scavenger is very simple to play. You simply click on options or areas of the screen (which highlight when you hover over them). In battle, as well as using your weapons, you have the option to engage in unarmed combat - this has the advantage of not degrading your weapons, but these attacks are usually quite weak. Pay attention to how these things work - they aren't always your standard RPG approach! The dentist drill, for instance (yes, this is a real weapon in this game!) is more effective against enemies with their mouths open, or how about an item that stuns enemies with at least three adjectives in their description?
There's a limited amount of replay value here - different tactics in battle, turning loot into different items/allies, and so on - but as the basic storyline is fixed, once you've finished the game there isn't much else to do. One issue to bear in mind is that your progress is somehow linked to your web browser history, so if you clear your history you may lose your progress! Still, there could be a few hours of play in just one game. Note that you can only have one game in progress at a time, which automatically saves as you progress, and you can always restart from the beginning if you prefer.
There are a few hiccups, particularly in the battle text - at one point I was fighting a giant leg (don't ask...) and one of my attacks swept the giant leg's legs out from under it - but for the most part things have been well thought out. The number of variations on attacks is astonishing - we have allies that won't operate in darkness, or only work outside. We have weapons that only work on stunned enemies. The vampire bat is a baseball bat that heals you when you hit enemies with it. There are bandages that make minor attacks heal you instead of hurt you. And I don't know any other games that include your mother as an ally in combat!
I'll admit that Dark Scavenger isn't the most technically brilliant game I've ever played, and it doesn't really pack that much of a challenge - it's more like a form of interactive fiction, similar to those "choose your own adventure" books I remember from my childhood. The big draw is definitely the humour of the story and the various items and characters. No other game has you attacking drunken bandits with a leaf blower, or giving an injured alien a severed foot for a crutch. It's this odd quality that makes Dark Scavenger so compelling and keeps you interested long enough to become invested in the story.
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