Review: Serious Scramblers

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A lack of ambition isn’t the kiss of death for a game, but it isn’t going to help it, either. I look for games that have something to say, or new ideas to share, or just a really compelling gameplay loop. I don’t normally end up with games like Serious Scramblers, little more than a score attack platform dash, not because I dislike them but because I’m not looking for the very specific sort of mastery challenge they offer. If you do, this will be a fine little diversion for you, otherwise there’s not a whole lot to attract folks here.

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With no story to clutter the proceedings, you are simply a ninja descending a series of platforms into a nigh-bottomless cave. Some of these platforms have coins on them, others have enemies, and many more still have traps like retractable spikes and fire bars. Descend far enough to the flag and you earn the privilege of moving to the next stage, but the spiked ceiling is following you down so there’s no time to dawdle. Coins can be used to unlock new characters or start right back from where you died instead of resetting the level, but other than that it’s a straight shot down the hundred or so levels to the end.

There’s little else to talk about, really. The screen wraps around the outer edges, so you can use that to dodge danger or reach tricky platforms. Supposedly there’s a boss at the end of all this, but without much to the levels, I didn’t see much reason to get to it. With no jump button or attacks, all there is to learn is the timing for traps and the accuracy to goomba-stomp enemies on the way down. Different characters can behave quite differently, like falling slower or having permanent speed boosts or being lifted wholesale from SUPERHOT. Still, you’re liable to find one that works for you and stick with it, particularly the ones that make more coins appear regularly.

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Again, Serious Scramblers isn’t a bad game. It sets out to do one simple thing, and it does it admirably. I just can’t say I’m very interested in the thing it’s doing. If you’re here for a very focused, specific challenge that you’re somehow not getting from Downwell, then you’re bound to get more mileage out of this than I. The faux-CRT pixel graphics are decently colorful and the sound design gets the job done, just not in a memorable way. And doesn’t that seem to sum up the situation here? Serious Scramblers gets the job done for simple platforming that ratchets up the challenge, but there’s nothing about it that’s going to stick with you.

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