The arcade experience is a memory quickly fading from the general consciousness of the gaming community. As business moved away from arcades, the rise of home consoles forced design principles to change, accelerating the evolution of the medium. Freed from the need to syphon quarters through unbalanced difficulty, designers began to make games more accessible than ever. Worlds within games were also able to expand, often serving goals like exploration and puzzle-solving over simplistic action and high scores.

Moving from the arcade to the home did the medium many favors, but the loss of the arcade’s innately communal aspect was palpable. Modern games are most commonly experienced from the comfort of the player’s home, with a physical absence of other players. Sharing features built into gaming platforms have helped to fill this gap, and the socialization aspects of yesteryear have found new life in the digital age on platforms such as Twitch.tv and YouTube.

Quarries of Scred sits squarely between the arcade and digital ages. By using modern technology in conjunction with old-school design aesthetics, it serves up the best of both worlds.

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Quarries of Scred opens with a menu screen that is intimidating in its vast array of choice. In the normal play mode instructions on the most basic properties of play are provided, along with a minimal backstory for the proceedings. Not included however, is a breakdown of the controls; keys are referenced by the command they represent, rather than the key itself. This design choice is every bit as maddening as it sounds, but it deftly sets the tone for the rest of the game. Having the impetus for learning thrust upon me from moment one was an important wake-up call, and established that I would have to earn every bit of progress by the skin of my teeth.

Gravity is at the core of Quarries of Scred; main character Bob can move in any direction on the board, but objects on the board will fall when freed from obstruction. Each block of dirt I plowed turned every surrounding rock into a bullet with Bob’s name on it. Dispersed within the dirt and rocks are collectable ores, the refinement of which grants currency to purchase upgrades essential to making further progress.

Scattering the collectables amongst deadly obstacles transforms the seemingly simplistic collect-the-shinies adventure into a devilish set of interconnected puzzles. I had to calculate each and every step, weighing the reward of treasure against the ever-looming risk of death from above. My first few lives lasted mere seconds, but the automatic replays of each death taught me how to avoid making the same mistakes on subsequent runs. Before I knew it, seconds were turning to minutes, and due to the quick respawns I was always itching for just one more try. By the one hour mark I was in a satisfying loop of loot>refine>upgrade, and felt like I was always making progress despite my frequent demises.

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After coming to grips with the basics of play in the first maze, I began exploring greater challenges. Aside from venturing to harder parts of the board in the normal mode, Quarries of Scred provides a variety of ways to customize the nature of the game. Players can test themselves by adding a time limit, or even limit their view of action in the “Darkness Mode”. I appreciated the presence of these extra options, but can only recommend them for the most masochistic spelunkers due to their severe difficulty.

Quarries of Scred leverages its potentially outdated goal of achieving high scores into one of its most modern features. The Daily Seed mode provides a steady stream of new levels, which test true mastery through its single-attempt boards. Players are encouraged to share their scores on Twitter, the game’s official Reddit forum, and the Steam community. Players are also encouraged to post video playthroughs of their best runs, some of which are aggregated on the game’s official site. This provides an interesting way for players to learn the mechanics of the game by experiencing it vicariously on social media, and creates a sense of competition within the community.

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Since these social aspects rely on the user to record and export their own footage, their impact is somewhat lessened. Enabling a native way to record or at least save replays would go a long way toward driving these themes home. As they stand, they’re an excellent way for savvy users to learn and grow within the game’s community. It’s an interesting glimpse into how modern technology can breathe new life into old ideas.

Quarries of Scred can easily stand on its own as a single-player experience. The strength of its core design kept me engaged and the brutality of its difficulty kept me on my toes. It’s an intoxicating combination of modern accessibility and old-school arcade gameplay that will always keep you striving for more. The social features, if underdeveloped, are simply icing on the cake.

About The Author

Community Manager/Editor

Daniel has spent the vast majority of his life immersed deeply in the worlds within games and the culture surrounding them. He hosts The Dead Pixels Podcast, a show celebrating less-than-classic retro games. His tendency toward positivity is tempered by a wealth of knowledge and experience with the medium's history.

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