Scars Above review for PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Prime Matter
Developer: Mad Head Games
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

If nothing else, I?m glad that games like Scars Above exist. At a time when it feels like every game is either some big budget AAA extravaganza or an indie, it?s nice that there?s still some space for a game like this that clearly falls in between. The whole AA/middle tier back in the Xbox 360/PS3 days (and earlier) was always home to some interesting ? if not necessarily essential, or even good, games ? and it warms my heart to know that Scars Above is carrying on that tradition.

And, in that tradition, Scars Above doesn?t have a unique identity so much as it feels like a mishmash of other, better ? and better-known ? games. There?s a heaping dose of Returnal, of course, with the whole ?female astronaut crashlands on a hostile alien planet and dies a bunch? plot. On top of that, though, you?ll see hints of Mass Effect and Dead Space, and maybe even Soulsborne games and Resident Evil if you look hard enough. Basically, it?s good enough you can see its influences, but not good enough to make you forget about any of them.

It doesn?t help that the game?s lower budget is obvious everywhere you look. While the alien designs are spooky, there isn?t a whole lot of variety between them, and you?ll see a lot of the same enemies over and over again. The same goes for the environments ? they?re interesting at first, but if it weren?t for the fact the game basically funnels you from one point to the next and puts plenty of invisible walls in your way, it?d be easy to get lost since they generally look very similar.

Scars Above?s biggest issue, though, is that it has an overreliance on jump scares and cheap deaths. You spend a lot of time here walking through flooded swamps, and the game?s favourite trick is having enemies pop up out of the water next to you with no warning, attacking you, and then diving back down underwater. Since they seem to trigger at the same moment every time, eventually you get a feel for exactly when you need to have your weapons ready, but you still have to suffer through a lot of deaths to get to that point.

On this front, the game is further let down by the fact the save points tend to be somewhat far apart. While the world isn?t that big, it?s still a pain when you explore a decent chunk of an area, get hit by a poison projectile from a monster attacking out of nowhere, and then watch as your health rapidly deteriorates and you have to start the area over again.

As flaws go, though, I?ve seen much worse. Scars Above is a competent enough game that efficiently gets you through its six-hour runtime. It won?t make you forget its influences, but if you can find this one on sale, you could definitely do a lot worse.

Prime Matter provided us with a Scars Above PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C+