Thanks to Chinykian Games for the review code
Title: Serious Scramblers
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 08/27/2020
Serious Scramblers is yet another retro throwback game, and thus goes with a pixel art look that I’ve seen time and time again. It fits the game just fine, and nothing about it looks wrong, but I kinda wished it would have paid tribute to a specific console or style rather than just making everything pixel art. Scramblers is a bit like Downwell in the sense that the game is a vertical game where you descend deeper and deeper, and thus it uses a vertical screen.
Unfortunately, the vertical screen here cannot be edited in any way that I could find. It has a forced CRT filter that doesn’t look too bad and appears to have been made with the game in mind, but the biggest gripe I have is not being able to change the screen orientation at all. The Switch’s handheld mode would be perfect for a vertical mode, akin to Downwell and Pinball FX, and having all the sprites show up in a crisp, bigger fashion would have made this game look marvelous! Alas, it’s stuck bordered in the center of the screen, and while the game works this way I can’t help but see missed potential.
The audio isn’t that varied either. Scramblers only sports a few average chiptunes, and while the title screen theme is pretty great, the stage theme drags on and on and on, never changing when you transition to a new area. To give credit, the song does sound like something that might work on a European computer, but I really wished for some variety by the time I hit the thirteenth stage…
Serious Scramblers is yet another of those one-control games, aiming to provide an arcade-like experience by being as simple to control as possible. In this case, it does that by only allowing you to move, with no button inputs whatsoever. Thus, you cannot jump, and instead you can only succeed by falling.
Enemies roam the platforms and the space between them, and stomping on them awards you a coin. Likewise, you can also gather coins that are just sitting on platforms, and they’re pretty fun to chain together, though there isn’t really a “score” in these stages, so you only need to worry about them if you’re into unlockables. Speaking of platforms, you’ll eventually encounter platforms with deadly hazards, including a spiked platform, a firebar platform, and a turret platform, though not much else.
Thus, the main objective in Scramblers is to just dodge all the mayhem going on as the level moves automatically to the bottom, and survive until you reach the flag at the bottom of each stage. Rinse and repeat many times, with the flag becoming tougher and tougher to obtain. There really isn’t much variety here and each new “world” is basically just the last one with a recolored background and more frequent hazards, along with a longer distance to the flag. There’s a boss near the end of the game, along with a harder version of said boss as the final fight, but outside of them, you don’t have anything else besides endless mode and the unlockable characters.
When it comes to the unlockable characters, I can say they do help make the game a little more interesting than just playing as the main character. A lot of them have differing traits that can benefit different playstyles, such as some that are faster or slower than normal, can attract coins or double the amount of coins in a stage, or have an easier time with some hazards. They’re all unlocked by spending the coins you get from every attempt of the stages, and you’ll be able to unlock a Mummy very early on that will make gold collecting really easy, so it’s thankfully not a grind. That being said, once you do find a character that you enjoy playing as, you’ll probably stick with it until the end, and once you unlock all the characters, there really isn’t much else to do.
In conclusion, Serious Scramblers was really fun in spots and gave a good glimpse into how this experience could be refined into an addictive time waster. Unfortunately, the slow lack of variety along with the lack of a vertical mode in a game screaming for it makes Serious Scramblers something that I can only really recommend if you’re into short and cheap experiences, rather than as an addictive arcade-like time chaser.
The Steam achievements are gone in this version of the game, and the endless mode isn’t really enough to provide replay value after beating the main 27 stages, so unfortunately this experience is rather short. Yet the controls are so tight, the unlockable characters are all fun to use and mess around with, and collecting coins is addicting, to the point I just wish there was more to do with them. Easily the biggest missing feature is the lack of a vertical mode, and I desperately hope that’s added in a future update. For $2, Scramblers isn’t a bad experience, but don’t expect it to last long.
I give Serious Scramblers a 7 out of 10.