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- The Spiral Scouts
The Spiral Scouts is an interesting little title. It’s a cutesy puzzle game where you play a new member of one of the titular scouts as you explore a magical world full of wonder and mystery. It’s also loaded to the brim with raunchy and dark humor—and I loved every minute of it.
You may have not heard of The Spiral Scouts before today. Odds are, you may be familiar with another work from one of the game’s developers: HuniePop. Ryan “HuniePotDev” Koons created HuniePop following a successful Kickstarter campaign. This combination match-three game and dating simulator proved wildly successful and paved the way for a sequel, but Mr. Koons had other plans to take care of first. He teamed up with Mario “Plixik” Velardita to form Cantaloupe Kids and create The Spiral Scouts.
Unlike Mr. Koons’ previous game, The Spiral Scouts does away with the nudity and sex. It did, however, keep his trademark style of humor and it makes for an entertaining experience. It’s humor certainly isn’t for everyone, but that’s exactly what I enjoyed about it.
Best of 2018 – The Spiral Scouts Is Wild
The setup of emerging in an ethereal realm to solve puzzles sounds like a standard adventure, but things quickly go off the rails from there. The leader of the Spiral Scouts is an infertile alcoholic with a dark sense of humor. The king of the realm literally had sex with his past wives so intensely that they died and you get to see the aftermath of one of these extremely unfortunate lovemaking sessions. Butt-shaped fruits can be taken off off trees, mixed up in an outhouse, and turned into an apparently delicious drink.
The Spiral Scouts gets even more extreme from there. Later levels see you effectively becoming a drug dealer and ingesting those same drugs yourself (as a minor, no less). A sexually frustrated woman has you retrieve a comically oversized (and helpfully pixelated) sex toy which she then uses without restraint right in front of you. These are just a handful of examples of the silly, lowbrow humor that’s characteristic of the game.
A glance at the cutesy art style would make anyone think this is a game appropriate for children. It is obviously not, and this dissonance makes the experience all the more hilarious. As South Park has shown time and again, there’s just something so very funny about a bunch of adorable characters that can swear like a sailor.
Best of 2018 – Dark Humor, Light World
The Spiral Scouts is undeniably dark. An aura of nihilism and hopelessness is evoked throughout the narrative, standing in sharp contrast to the peppy, upbeat world. It’s a particular brand of dark humor that certainly isn’t for everyone.
I grew up on the likes of George Carlin and Christopher Titus. These no-nonsense comedians painted a horrible picture of the world and somehow made us laugh about it. It’s amazing to be able to watch Titus talk about how his bipolar mother killed a man and manage to turn that tragedy into comedy.
This world, too, turns tragedy into comedy. Your comrades in the Scouts and the inhabitants of the world are broken, deranged, or completely lacking in moral character. A rare few of the characters manage to be all three. Despite appearances, the world of The Spiral Scouts is truly a horrible place to be. And yet, it’s approached in such a fashion that I often found myself guiltily laughing at the expense of the game’s various characters.
Tossing the protagonist Remae into the world is akin to throwing a sane person into a mental hospital. She’ll be weirded out by some of the stranger folks, depressed for the losers, and outright horrified at some of the more extreme scenes. As the game progresses, she gradually gets fed up with the ridiculous situation and sometimes resorts to extreme actions of her own. It makes you think if everyone in this world started out the same way.
Best of 2018 – The Little Guys
I remember when Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came out and it had more swear words than a bachelor party full of sailors. From what I could see at the time, this seemed to mark the moment where coarse language was finally acceptable in video games. Later titles explored other controversial subjects at the time, each step pushing the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable in the medium.
The Spiral Scouts doesn’t necessarily blaze any trails. It stands on the shoulders of giants like South Park, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and the like that pushed the envelope in terms of dark (and often offensive) humor in gaming. What it does manage to do is embrace these elements and execute them well.
Perhaps surprisingly, The Spiral Scouts is actually a pretty good game. I’m not super big into the puzzle genre and I often found myself completely stuck at some of the more challenging problems set before me. A newbie would certainly have a difficult time and I think that even puzzle game veterans would find something to love. Having either an engaging narrative or challenging gameplay is difficult enough, but managing to do both at the same time is rare.
The most interesting to me, though, is the fact that The Spiral Scouts repeatedly tackles sensitive subjects without the slightest bit of tact. There are no sacred cows in the world of Remae and her friends—pretty much everyone and everything is made fun of in extraordinarily tasteless fashion. This particular brand of off-color, offensive humor seems increasingly rare. In a way, publishing this game was a small act of bravery.
For those of us who enjoy dark and tacky humor, we cannot rely on the likes of Rockstar to get us by with a new Grand Theft Auto game every decade. It’s going to be up to the little guy—lots and lots of little guys, in fact—to keep us laughing with a fresh dose of nihilism and dark comedy. The Spiral Scouts did exactly that in the finest of fashions.