Before we say anything else, can I get one thing out of the way: This is the best name any game has ever had. Try saying it out loud. It will improve your current mood upward of 37%. It’s a game I want to tell other people about just so I get the chance to say the words to another person. Thankfully, I wouldn’t be wasting their time, since it’s a damned fine game too.
I am definitely not one for precision platformers. As soon as I see that “difficult” tag on a game on Steam, I resign myself to this being a game for Other People, mostly dreadful people, the sorts who say they “beat a game” rather than finished it. People who go on forums to complain that it wasn’t actually difficult enough for them and demand a higher difficulty mode, and truly believe this made them go up in the world’s estimation. I am not those people. I like the idea of playing a game I can actually see any of. This is my proclivity. Which makes (yay!) Scoot Kaboom And The Tomb Of Doom a strange prospect for me to have tried out, but then again, how could I not when I saw the screenshots? Aaaaaaaaand, as it turns out, it may well be a precision platformer, and it may well sport a “difficult” tag, but it’s a game that actually wants to be played!
At the start you choose from one of three crocodilian characters (with many more characters to unlock later), pick, um, a favourite food, and then you’re off. You, as is so often the case, fall for the ol’ “FREE FOOD” sign stuck over the “DANGER: TEMPLE OF DOOM” sign, and thanks to the cruel cheese-swiping actions of a mysterious malevolent figure, are cast into said doom-laden temple. And at first, gosh, it’s tiny! The game, zoomed out to what you’d be forgiven for thinking was the map, is mostly a black screen, into the top left corner of which you can zoom. There you have a fairly traditional platforming screen, in which you run and jump, avoiding the spikes. And as you keep going, increasingly more and more spikes, so many spikes, poking out of everywhere, sometimes by surprise.
Get hit once and you die, and I prepared to let loose my sigh of disappointment and abandon the splendid Amiga-esque art and funky chiptunes, and pop it on the teetering pile of games for them. But it respawned me just a few pixels away. It turns out the very frequent eggs through which you run are checkpoints, and they’re everywhere.
This is the rarest of all things: a super-challenging platform game that wants you to keep going and not give up! Each section of spikes, spinning blades, bouncing buttons, teleporting platforms, and so many more features, is a micro-challenge. It’s about surviving the next five seconds, not the whole screen. It’s about working out the timing to screech past the spikes such that they vanish the very moment you start, such that you can fall past the blades and bounce into the next saving egg. And that’s achievable!
Obviously it gets harder as it goes along, and it starts to mix together the different elements of the different sections. They’re not ideas you haven’t seen before in such games, with platforms that appear and disappear each time you jump, or forward and reverse travellators messing up your movement speed as you try to time runs between moving spikes. It’s just that here, they’re all implemented so incredibly well, each little challenge exquisitely timed, and ultimately, entirely fair. It’s just it might take you thirty-seven attempts to get past each one.
But again, it’s utterly fair about it. There’s no death count, no time limits, no finger waving or tutting as you fail. It just instantaneously puts you back at the last egg, likely no more than ten seconds earlier, and lets you try again. With each death you splatter colourful paint on the level, making things look just more fun and decorative the more you mess up. And those stains remain, which is a far bigger deal here since the entire game is technically one level.
That’s why those map-looking screenshots aren’t of a map – that’s the game as it’s running, and you can (if you are mad) play it like that. You can zoom in and out at any point, and as you reach the next section, the overall view fills in accordingly. It’s ultimately just a neat gimmick, and doesn’t really affect how you play, but honestly who cares when it’s so damned cool. You’re just playing one whopping level all the time.
As you go there are extra challenges hidden along the way. These involve finding a jewel and carrying it back to the nearest egg-point, which invariably means completing a far trickier mini-section. I’ve astonished myself by managing to pick up an awful lot of these, but must also admit to just giving up on some. However, it’s not completely giving up, since the game lets you teleport to earlier sections at any time, letting you have another go at challenges that you abandoned.
There are all sorts of other game modes, including speedruns (where I think this game could be huge), but these can only be played once you’ve finished the main game. It’s all the more peculiar that this amazing game comes from a company that seems to otherwise provide game development education! On the basis of Scoot Kaboom, they certainly know what they’re doing.
This is… it’s incredible! It’s a super-hard, “tough as nails” platformer, but for people who don’t hate themselves and those around them. It’s a precision platformer that lets you just keep on trying until you get it right. Hopefully that will infuriate those who see games as some sort of Ultimate Ninja trial, through which only the most elite and expert and lonely can ever pass. For me, it’s made me happy all day long.
- Janius Digital
- £9/€10/$12 (20% off that until the 8th June)
- Official Site
All Buried Treasure articles are funded by Patreon backers. If you want to see more reviews of great indie games, please consider backing this project.
Could do with a splash of colour, though.
Worth a purchase for the name alone
Is there a soundtrack by Huey Lewis and the News?