Scorn looks like Giger, but could play like The Witness - IGN

Scorn looks like Giger, but could play like The Witness – IGN

Scorn feels like you’re teetering on the grime-covered ledge between “strangely disturbing” and “deliberately grotesque.” In the hour or two that I play the game – its completely tutorial-less opening section – I’m presented with a truly nasty biotech setting, shown how its many opaque puzzles will link together to form neat chains of wordless narrative, and gently repelled by him sometimes pushing beyond his Giger-indebted flesh landscape and into less impressive body horror.

Scorn’s heart lies in its puzzles. It can play from an FPS perspective and sometimes gives you what looks like weapons, but it’s a brain game at its core. Opening with your mysterious main character literally tearing himself out of his seemingly living landscape, Scorn gives no on-screen guidance as to what to do, or how anything is working, leaving you to plod along the gently undulating hallways. of his world, sometimes putting your hands in horrible contraptions just to see what’s going on.

To Scorn’s credit, this self-directed approach works well. Quickly, you’re given (well, violently implanted) equipment that allows you to manipulate biotech machinery, leaving you to try to figure out what it’s for. The player is then drawn to a single puzzle – unlock that big door – which you slowly realize is actually made up of several smaller puzzles that need to be chained together.

These range from the oddly familiar (a puzzle about retrieving a huge, disgusting egg from a wall is actually a simple sliding puzzle disguised) to the truly bizarre (one section had me use what appeared to be a slaughterhouse bolt gun to destroy floating steam-spewing machinery in an effort to…feed a huge column?). It’s a very elegant way to tie gameplay to the world and vice versa – and the mix of hands-on design and deeply unfamiliar locations makes it a rewarding challenge to solve.

Scorn’s story is apparently intentionally left as empty as its puzzle solutions – I imagine interpreting this world will require as much mental effort as the gameplay – but it seems clear that we’re in a horrible place which is went even more horribly to sow . For the most part, it’s fascinating and unique as far as gaming goes, a worthy ode to Cronenberg, Giger, maybe even Junji Ito.

On one occasion, however, I felt it come close to something like Agony; adopting a more cheerful and voyeuristic unpleasantness. Without giving too much away on the solution, the central puzzle of this opening area centers around using an almost fetus-like person as a means of escape. Your mileage may vary, but having to repeatedly maim them—watching them writhe, scream, and wordlessly beg you to stop—felt less like intrigue to me than provocation. It pushed back, but not in the way I expected from what otherwise seems like a silent, creeping exercise in horror.

I’ll be very interested to see how much of this dark mood becomes a part of the larger game, not least because it completely changes the mood created by its other puzzles. At its best, Scorn already feels like a deeply weird, deeply thought-out take on a more open-ended puzzle, perhaps more easily comparable to The Witness. Personally, that’s what I hope to see more of – but if you’re looking for a dose of real unpleasantness, it looks like you’ve got it covered too. The balance between these two sides will be the key to its success.

Joe Skrebels is IGN’s news editor. Follow him on Twitter. Any advice to give us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an e-mail to newstips@ign.com.


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