psyscrolr (Wii U) Review

By Albert Lichi 02.05.2015

Review for psyscrolr on Wii U

The Wii U is no stranger to retro-style indie games with pixel art appearing on the eShop. The boon pretty much began when Cave Story first appeared as a freeware title and since then has spawned a movement of countless indie developers trying to craft their own 2D side-scrolling platform titles. It's a simple premise really, and not very difficult to make an effective enjoyable game - as long as all of the elements are in the right place. Typically in these types of products, the most important parts are level design, the core control mechanics, and the visual language. When Actos Games released psyscrolr on eShop, it showed a gross misunderstanding of thoughtful game design and is a perfect example of what not to do when designing a 2D platformer. Just what went wrong with psyscrolr? Cubed3 explains in this review…

Before psyscrolr begins, already there is something very wrong, with an unbelievably long boot up sequence that really does take several minutes. After that, the introduction plays out, expressed by a very droll and boring narrator, whose voice lacks any personality whatsoever. The narrator delivers a very dry, very long back-story over poorly drawn pixel art. This narration sequence can, thankfully, be skipped. Basically, the story is: the main character was born with psychic abilities and tried to help out his fellow villagers with his newfound powers, but they fear what they don't understand and exile him. All the while, he keeps hearing a voice in his head… the same voice of the narrator. The premise itself isn't dreadful, by any means, but the execution and delivery of such a basic story is painfully misfired and should not have been as intrusive as it is.

The first impression of psyscrolr is terrible, but maybe the gameplay is okay? No, sadly it isn't, with a heavy reliance on the touch screen for a lot of the action. The few actions the GamePad and stylus aren't used for are things like moving the hero and jumping, both of which have been botched. The main character's movement is limited to only the left thumb-stick and no options for the directional-pad. In a side-scroller where careful movement and accuracy matters, things like this are crucial, especially since psyscrolr already has very slippery and lose controls. Jumping has been poorly handled as well, since it has been mapped to the L and A buttons and since the touch screen must be used frequently, it is utterly pointless to have it mapped to the A button, unless made for left-handed gamers, and even then it would be uncomfortable. Granted, the game's jumping physics are much easier to control when using the A button, but that reliance on stylus-based play is extremely counterintuitive. The easy fix, to give a control option that does not use the touch screen as a means of firing projectiles (mapping to the right analogue stick, for instance), is something Actos Games has failed to include.

Screenshot for psyscrolr on Wii U

Tapping the main character makes him slash with some kind of psychic energy sword, but more often than not, it won't respond properly and also has a high chance of making him slash the opposite way he's facing. With no option to play psyscrolr like a normal videogame and the default setting feeling like a broken mess, it becomes very hard to recommend this game to anyone.

The game does manage to have some decent looking pixel art, even if some of it is rather derivative or amateurish. The best aspect of the visuals is perhaps the backgrounds and not so much the game's characters, since they do not animate that well and the frame-rate tends to chug in the later levels. There is one level that is an homage to the black silhouetted levels from Donkey Kong Country Returns and is probably the best looking level since it focuses on only colour and silhouettes to allow very distinct visuals. It also pays homage to the Kirby series by having a hub with various doors that connect to other levels, which works fine enough, except for the fact there aren't many stages and each progressively gets worse in its design as progress is made. There is the introduction of mid-level gimmicks or puzzles to add some variety, but none of them are implemented well and every single one of them is thoroughly frustrating due to the poorly coded controls and sloppy programming. There is one instance involving a moon buggy that will most likely become the rage-quit moment for most and make people feel regret for making the purchase.

There are a lot of quality retro-style pixel-based side-scrolling platformers out on eShop and most of them are better than psyscrolr. Actos Games clearly has good ideas and the developer obviously wanted to try to do something a little different, but the final execution is so poor and sloppy that the conclusion that comes to mind is that maybe it is just not properly finished. This conjecture is supported by the fact the game's designer is active on Miiverse and has made promises to update with patches and to try to amend some of its less desirable qualities. In this state, however, psyscrolr should be avoided and is not worth $3.99 at all. There are a few nice qualities that can be said about it, such as its music and use of colour, but none of it matters if the core game is broken and frustrating to play.

Screenshot for psyscrolr on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 2 out of 10

Very Bad

To sum up, psyscrolr is a very bad game that can be fixed with some extra effort. Actos Games can make this into a fun little platformer if it re-evaluates this product and its myriad of problems. In its current state, however, psyscrolr is best if people just play something else or save their money. It just goes to show how cute pixel visuals are not enough to make a great title, and that there are other aspects that make it fun - the most important part being the controls. If the game can't be played fluently with authority, then it severs the connection with the end user.


Actos Games


Actos Games


2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  2/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   


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