The Scruffs starts off unlike any other hidden object game. It opens with a bang – spoken dialog, full animation and all. I don’t believe any other games in this genre (or even other games in the general “casual” category) goes so far to establish its story line, and it definitely made the game stand out. Once you start getting into it, it’s not really that much different than other games.

The first chapter start off with dad losing his job, and grandpa coming to the rescue with a quest for the family: finding “priceless” artifacts hidden al over the house. Each chapter consists of finding items in rooms, playing the “scribbles” mini-game, one jigsaw puzzle, and lastly, searching for the artifact.

There are 20 rooms, each with a different personality. All of which are believably messy; our nursery at home is definitely messier than baby Scruff’s. Objects are hidden quite well, and I’ve had to use hints more often that I’d care to admit. It pull out every trick in the book: surprising colors, shape matching, muted colors, word riddles. You have to find every single last object on the list to advance.

Thankfully, the hints system is wonderful. The dog “Scruffy” lives in the bottom right of your screen, and whenever you need a hint, you can feed him a dog biscuit (make him an offer he can’t refuse.) After he devours said biscuit, he will act either indifferent, scared, or excited depending on how close your cursor is to the object. When you’re close enough, the object will start to pulse, and if your cursor is right over the object, Scruffy will give you a thumbs up. You start each chapter with 3 doggy biscuits, and there’s an extra one you can find in every room.

In every chapter there’s also a family photo to be hunted. Once you find it, you can find the scribbles game. The boy will draw a scribble, and you’ll have to click on it. He’ll draw another scribble, and you get to find it again – the key is to click on the newest one every time. If you click on an old scribble, it’s game over and you’re awarded either a bronze, silver, or gold star.  If you get gold stars on all the family photos at the end of the game, you’ll get to know a secret. Shh.

Each chapter finishes with a jigsaw and a hunt for the object inside that jigsaw. The jigsaw has a “ghost” backing so you’re likely to finish each one in under a minute. After that, you have to find the object, which isn’t as easy. In cases where there are only one or two screens to hunt through for that object, it’s pretty easy. Near the end of the game where you have to find that one object in any one of three very dark rooms, it can be downright frustrating. If you run out of time at any of these stages, you have to start the chapter again. That’s just brutal.

Each stage has randomized items, and this works very well. I’m not sure if there are just too many objects in each screen for the game to give you repeats, but this is one of the few object hunting games that I don’t see lists overlap from chapter to chapter. Even the artifact locations are randomized so you won’t be finding them in the same location again. So replay value is definitely enhanced due to this.
I do have some quibbles with the game, namely the non-standard fonts used in the list. Sometimes it can be very hard to read what’s on the list. For example at one point I was trying to find a “cow” forever, only to squint and find that I’m looking for a “coin.” Meanwhile, I’ve spent 5 minutes trying to find a cow. The story segments with animations also doesn’t appear again until the very end, so you’re going for a lot of chapters in between the first two, and the last one.

The graphics are standard in a game like this, and the composition is closer to the Dream Day series of games than the MCF series. That’s to say, objects are realistic and mostly made from photographic objects. The art presented in The Scruffs are cartoonish and professionally drawn, all of which fits in with the overall playful theme of the game quite well. The soundtrack leaves much to be desired however; the track is upbeat enough, but every room plays the same music. Scribbles has its own track to differentiate itself from the rest of the game, however.

There’s a lot to like The Scruffs. Characters with personality, a wonderful hints system, extended replayability, and a great little mini-game (completely optional) that pushes you for a gold star.  It also saves anywhere, and has a relaxed mode with up to an hour an a half per chapter for those who just wants to play without worrying too much about the clock. It’s definitely one of the better ones out there, even if it doesn’t do anything new; what it does is old, but it does it very, very well.

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