Skaramazuzu Review

April 9, 2024


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In the void between life and death, a lost soul struggles to work out who it is. Skaramazuzu’s premise is intriguing, as is its sinister muted palette which evokes the likes of Limbo and Year Walk. Unfortunately, any similarity ends there as a potentially interesting game is reduced to a monotonous series of fetch quests. 

The clunky opening exposition repeats your character Zuzu’s goal several times. In order to find yourself, you have to unlock four symbols to activate four orb keys, which in turn help you recover locked away memories. If only enlightenment was as easy to achieve in real life. Skaramazuzu’s story takes you through a couple of dozen side-scrolling locations. Many contain characters who carry the symbols you need to access the orb keys, but most of these talk in a similar, irritating tone which doesn’t make for an endearing experience. 

I don’t no either

Zuzu begins as a naive innocent soul, but almost immediately their childish monologuing about everything you encounter starts to grate. Conversations you have with other characters become a chore as you retread every facet of what they need three times or more. Furthermore, Zuzu talks to each item in their possession as if addressing a toddler. It’s bizarre and off-putting. Any decision you are offered is binary: you either do the thing and progress, or you don’t do the thing and then repeat the task again because you actually need to do the thing. When you’re asked time after time whether you want to pick up key items or not, it seems like nothing more than padding.

I am rubber, you are glue

All dialogue is spoken in gibberish, a staple for indie games who only have pocket change for a voice acting budget. It’s probably a good thing it isn’t fully voiced, in truth. The translation is reasonable but there are numerous typos and odd grammar usage throughout (“My little angle” being a hilarious lowlight) and the dialogue is almost unbearable to read. Actors handed this script would have walked out of the door immediately.

Why is it suspicious? You’ll never find out.

In one exchange, a creature asks you to do “a little something” for them. You ask them to clarify: “A little something?”. They respond “Yes, just a little something.” Another creature adds “Yes, a little something.” After a bit more back and forth, you’re offered the key again if you do a little something for the creatures. You try to establish what the “something” they want is. Eventually, they tell you they want a ring. You ask, “A ring?”. And so it goes on. Over twenty lines of dialogue later, you’re finally able to leave in search of the ring. Later, you’ll meet a fire spirit. A fire spirit? Yes, a fire spirit. A fire spirit? Yes, a spirit, who is also fire. 

These are the kinds of interactions you have to look forward to in Skaramazuzu. It’s like playing a Dr. Seuss book with all sense of rhyme, meter and interest removed. 

Even the items you need to collect are dull

As there’s no tutorial, you’ll need to refer to the settings menu to work out the controls. Fortunately, gameplay is limited to a simple inventory, a journal and an interaction button. The journal maps out what stage of a chain of tasks you’re currently at for any one of the four orb keys. This is more interesting than the tasks themselves, which appear to be thrown together with little thought. As an example: on a path to retrieve one orb key, you need to find a ring from a graveyard. Except you can’t get into the graveyard without paying a gold coin. To get the coin you need to get a form signed by two different creatures. What is the form for? That doesn’t matter. The game is an entire laundry list of banal fetch quests tied together by inane dialogue. 

All the characters talk like this.

Character names are laughably uninspired. You’ll meet a bird called “Bird”, a man and a woman called “Mister” and “Misses”, a kid named “Kid”, and a bug called “Bug”. There is one character, a mysterious woman, who Zuzu comes back to assist throughout the game and is the sole source of intrigue in the story. That, too, fizzles out by the end. If you’re hoping to glean some existential message or deeper understanding of what you’ve just spent two hours hauling yourself through, you’ll be disappointed. 

That’s what all the people say

With its striking monochrome aesthetic, Skaramazuzu certainly looks attractive. The visuals are likely to entice many indie fans looking for a short, engaging, atmospheric experience. Sadly, in this list, the game’s length is the only target developer Bleeding Moon Studio hits. 

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If you want to spend a couple of hours pacing back and forth between screens filled with identically speaking characters and a dreary story, Skaramazuzu will tick your box. For everyone else, it’s a game which looks far better than it plays.
Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.