Scornful is a tough game so far. It’s slow, takes you down winding mazes with little guidance, doesn’t feel comfortable with storytelling (at least early on) and is set in an incredibly uncomfortable and grotesque world inspired by clearly inspired by the works of Swiss artist HR Giger. I find it a painful, openness experience. But to be honest, I think the discomfort is the key point. And in it, Scornful can be a successful game.
Developed by Ebb Software and released yesterday on PC and Xbox — I’m on PC—Scornful has been in development since 2014. After a failed Kickstarter campaign and the two-part game release plan being abandoned, it re-emerged on Kickstarter in 2017 to secure funding and is now available. was available to play. It bills itself as “an atmospheric first-person horror adventure game set in a nightmarish universe with odd forms and a dark tapestry” and also inspired by the philosophy of Heideggeran.
I’ll let you, the reader, deal with the philosophical angle, as that’s not my area of expertise and I don’t want to comment on Martin Heidegger’s work or how it applies to this game. I approach Scornful from the perspective of someone deeply moved by the works of HR Giger; I generally appreciate art that is imperfect, difficult, and may or may not be, abrasive. I am no expert on Giger’s biography or the intentions behind his work, but I do know how I have reacted to his art. And that’s how I approached this game.
Scornful, in the five hours I’ve spent on it, appeals to me because it imparts a lot of friction to the player. I’m not necessarily having a good time, but I’m nonetheless dragged down the corridors of this creepy adventure game, more so than a first-person shooter, because of the Giger art- esque has had a huge impact on me.
As a transgender woman who has spent most of her life self-contained, I find that HR Giger’s work visually conveys the atmosphere of gender, sexuality and physical form, feelings, and emotions. General insecurity and confusion resonate with the way I see the world. for most of my life. His images offer meditative spaces that are mind-boggling and in tune with my feelings about the world rather than the gory, simple convenience Hollywood often drops. That’s why I’m hooked on this game. And while Scornful not for everyone (probably not for most), so far it’s managed to mirror what I’ve come to realize from Giger’s art by refusing to live up to gaming expectations “AAA” is easy to play and easy to understand.
No handheld. No map. There is no objective marker. The HUD elements are very confusing (a bug indeed), and the puzzles will take some time to spin around in your head. You cannot jump. You cannot bow. Invisible walls are everywhere, making Scornful feels more like a museum. The first “weapon” you get is pretty much useless against initial enemies, and once you finally get a gun, it’s going to be amazingly inaccurate. This game has one of the worst cases of “where-the-hell-I-must-go-now” that I’ve experienced in years. However, I want to keep playing it until the end.
Scornful succeeds in communicating, in using, what I love about HR Giger’s work in two main ways. But it fails in a third, perhaps fatal.
Its first success came from creating confusion and surrealism. I don’t know what will do. As a gamer, I feel frustrated by that. But as myself, Claire, I’m happy to get lost and forced into an unknown place.
The way it tends to play out is that you come across strange rooms and devices that have an obscure purpose. You try to trigger these in some way, either using strange objects you pick up or by pressing the A button, only to be disappointed when the resulting animation doesn’t work. Then you walk around the corridors and touch the gross stuff over and over until you finally figure out where you have to go or what trash interacts with the active hallway.
This is certainly annoying, but I argue that, in the spirit of Giger, this is how it should be. If this game assigns random lore words and phrases to objects and spaces around you, or makes it more friendly, it will spoil the natural flow of bizarre bullshit. that you must manage. The main character is (so far) silent, leaving my own thoughts to recount what I’m going through. Scornful becomes very personal in the space of this character and voice.
A game drawn directly from Giger so inherently surreal and confusing. That said, many of these puzzles are of the kind we’ve seen before in other games. What makes them work, for me, at least, brings me to ScornfulThe second major success to date: It gives the “mechanical” life of the “biomechanical” source material. Seeing the kind of art style that bends and slides through my manipulations gives a sense of movement that Giger’s works often don’t.
Combined, these two strengths give me a game experience similar to what I experienced when I got lost in a Giger chunk. If it went smoother, softer, it would be so much more Prometheus than “Brain Salad Surgery. ” Scornfulon its own, not “Brain Salad Surgery,” “Necronom IV,” or “generator“But I see it, as a video game, to resonate with what I’m into those works.
ScornfulIn my opinion, the ultimate failure has little to do with its trifle as a game. Sure, the protagonist walks too slowly (accustomed to holding down “sprint”) and you should really turn off motion blur and increase the FoV by at least a notch or two. Also, the game is experiencing stuttering that I’m starting to notice more and more in Unreal Engine games. These are all good reasons for players to quit this game.
But for me, its main failure is the almost shocking art design (with source material) that lacks engagement with human sexuality. I think Scornful could have learned more from the eroticism of Giger’s work. There’s gory body horror here for sure, but watering down its erotic motifs takes away ScornfulThe art of human consciousness, as twisted and distorted as it may appear, is present in Giger.
I understand why this could happen. Any game that follows HR Giger’s description of distorted genitalia, monstrous penises, and vaginas, is likely to land in Adult Only territory. There are enough “insert” images, virtual images, and yawn gaps to hint in the right direction, but Scornful suffering from not going all the way.
Honestly, more penises and pussy and body parts would make this game much better. The fingerprints of the Giger-esque biomechanical sex are present in the design of various tunnels and its raised phallic objects, but lack the obvious details of actual human anatomy. In this important way Scornful almost like a radio-friendly version of an inappropriate song. To be fair, I don’t know if I would trust a modern video game to work with such themes elegantly from the start, but the combination of horror, bewilderment and erotic is the main appeal of this art style for me and it is a shame to see it as such, well, disabled Spitting. The raw, haunting surrealism eroticism is what often draws me to Giger, and its omission here detracts from the game’s potential vitality.
Scornful Not a fun game. It’s confusing and painful to play. It’s like listening Dillinger escape plan opposite. But for those reasons, I will continue to rush through these corridors as long as the sloppy combat doesn’t affect the experience too much.