I'm not a huge fan of puzzle games. I've played my fair share of match-3s, adventure games, and the like, but it's not a genre that I'm super excited about. There needs to be a little something extra for it to catch my attention. The Spiral Scouts did just that through its pedigree. Developed in part by the man behind HuniePop, a new studio called Cantaloupe Kids has put together something quite interesting for their inaugural title.
The Spiral Scouts begins with you exiting a portal into a glowing realm. A mysterious arrangement of numbers and symbols sits before you and you cannot advance until you solve it. This first puzzle sets the tone - not too hard, but just hard enough that you have to think for a moment. I managed to clear it and was promptly thrust into the game world proper. Have a gander at the game's launch trailer to get a feel for how it looks in motion, and worry not - there aren't any major spoilers for the plot or puzzle solutions in it:
The overall gist of the plot is as such. Every one hundred years, the four founder Spirals of Order, Chaos, Life, and Death must be united for a ceremony. You just so happen to pop up at a time when they need to be reunited, but only one of the founders is in the mythical Citadel as he should be. It's up to you to free the others from the bonds chaining them to their respective realms and get them together so they can hold the ceremony. This is accomplished by solving puzzles and earning badges. These will give these founders Spiral Juice and give you the chance to return them to where they belong.
It seems like a relatively straightforward affair so far. However, one-half of this game's development team is comprised of the developer of HuniePop. Once you enter the Life Realm, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not your typical puzzle game. Your Scoutmaster Welth is an infertile alcoholic. Your fellow Scout Meh is a degenerate who drinks what amounts to flavored sewage and couldn't answer a child's riddle to save his life (that being the thing Spiral Scouts are known for). You will gradually meet a cast of characters that are strange, silly, foul-mouthed, or perverted. Sometimes all at the same time.
Whether or not you like the writing and characterization is a matter of taste. If you don't enjoy crude humor, The Spiral Scouts may not be the title for you. However, the most important part of a game to some is the gameplay itself. That's where The Spiral Scouts delivers beautifully.
There are eight badges in each of the game's three realms. Each badge is equivalent to a quest that you complete. Sometimes you will only have to solve a single puzzle to earn a badge, but many of the badges require that you solve a variety or complete another badge beforehand.
The puzzles themselves make for a nice variety of classic archetypes. A couple of grid-based math problems make an appearance and these are surely one of the reasons why the game recommends that you keep a pen and paper handy. Personally, I decided to crack open a spreadsheet program and write up some formulae so I could tweak numbers in order to find correct solutions. The math was simple enough that I (and probably most other people) could do it by hand, but it was complex enough that you couldn't do it all in your head.
A particular downside of some of the puzzles is that not all of them give you a solid in-game indication of your progress. Most of the time, you won't be sure you've solved a devilish lil' buggers until the cutscene plays. The math-based mysteries are where this challenge is most evident. Unless you have an excellent memory, you're going to need an external aid of some sort to get through some of the game's tougher creations.
After you earn at least five badges in the first realm, you talk to a realm's Spiral and venture to a "boss puzzle" of sorts. These seem to be a bit more difficult than the challenges you've faced so far, and the very first one was a math puzzle that necessitated me using a spreadsheet program in order to figure things out. Once it's completed, the Spiral is free to join their companions in The Citadel and you're able to move on to the next realm. Gathering five badges from each of the three realms is enough to unite the Spirals in The Citadel and complete the game, a task that took me just over 6 hours to do.
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Of course, completionist players and hardcore fanatics will probably want to beat every single puzzle. That's certainly an option and the game even has a mechanic to support it. Collecting all eight badges in a realm will award you with a trophy given to you personally by that particular Spiral. I'm keen on hopping back into the world and figuring out some of the more difficult conundrums.
The Spiral Scouts has a range of brain teasers, mysteries, and enigmas for plays of all skill levels. I'm not a hardcore puzzle gamer, but some of the solutions to these challenges just escape me entirely. It's mainly the word puzzles that have been giving me trouble. I've been more than tempted to brute-force them as I haven't yet figured out any kind of solution just yet.
For the most part, the game is good at giving you enough context to figure things out. Even so, I fear that some players may have to resort to a guide to figure out a puzzle's logic. Some kind of hint system or better indication for some of these puzzles may have made a bit more accessible. It also may have made the game easier, which makes for a delicate balancing act. I'm still not quite certain if The Spiral Scouts got it all right in the end. I could just be a garden variety idiot.
The art style that I had only seen in screenshots is crisp and lively in the actual moving game world. Playing The Spiral Scouts really feels like interacting with a cartoony pop-up book. (Of course, the characters in this title are certainly not the sort you would see in any modern children's book.) The CGs of the characters for conversations are particularly well-done.
As for the game's sound, the SFX do their job just fine for the most part. Some of the stranger scenes make hilarious use of sound effects. Especially in moments when the game crosses the line and doesn't want to show you something lewd or gruesome happening. The music is handled by the same man who composed the tunes for HuniePop and Song of the Deep (among other titles) and is a highlight of the game. If you've played HuniePop at all, the music's style will be immediately familiar and welcoming to you.
I had a boatload of fun in the six hours and change that I spent playing The Spiral Scouts. The game's comedy made me laugh and the puzzles challenged me. It's by no means a perfect game, but it was certainly a lot of fun. If nothing else, it makes for an excellent first title by Cantaloupe Kids.
Our The Spiral Scouts review was conducted on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
What do you think of The Spiral Scouts? Do you think puzzle games ought to give players hints? Should they require a lot of thought to figure things out? Let us know in the comments below!
The Spiral Scouts is a solid puzzle game with a boatload of off-color humor, but some parts may prove too challenging for puzzle game novices.(Review Policy)
- Hilarious Off-color Humor & Story
- Entertaining Puzzles Build On The World
- Excellent Music Tracks
- Puzzles Don't Indicate Progress
- Some Puzzles Are Too Vague