Scaler doesn't stray too far from the formula we've come to expect from these kinds of games. Throughout its 15 levels, you'll jump across platforms, attack minor enemies, open doors with switches, collect a variety of items (eggs and energy orbs), and do battle against a series of increasingly-difficult bosses. The levels are quite large and generally setup to allow free-roaming, whereby you can explore smaller sections and backtrack without going back to a map screen. Scaler can attack using his claws and tongue. The majority of abilities and attacks can be upgraded by collecting small energy orbs called "klokkies."
The main thing distinguishing Scaler from other games is that, unlike the characters in other games, Scaler is a lizard. Because he is a lizard, you can do things here that you probably haven't done in other games... such as slap enemies and grab items with Scaler's whip-like tongue, walk on the ceiling, and sail down vines as if they were zip-lines.
Furthermore, as you complete the game, you'll unlock new transformations that allow Scaler to become different types of lizards. There are five in all and they each have a specific purpose, be it for sniping, flying, or swimming.
One drawback to Scaler's lizard-heritage is that he can't swim, which actually also turns out to be the game's most significant flaw. The 3D perspective, on the one hand, makes it difficult to judge jump distances, while the "slippery" controls, on the other hand, make it easy to simply slide right off an edge and into the water below. Falling into the water unexpectedly is a common occurrence in this game. To compensate for this flaw, players get unlimited continues and the game has been programmed to re-spawn Scaler within steps of where he fell. That's a fair compromise, but it sure would've been nicer if they taught the dude to swim.
There really isn't much more that can be said with regard to the game's design or how it plays. Scaler shares a great deal in common with many other 3D adventure games, and its flaws aren't out of the ordinary for a game of its ilk.
Thankfully, despite being a so-called "budget" game, Scaler's production values are more in line with full-priced software. The graphics are sharp, the polygon count is high, the sight distance is far, the bosses are large, and there's a goodly amount of animation to see (not just in the characters, but in the environment as well). Scaler's jungle environments have a passing resemblance to the levels found in games like Rayman and Klonoa 2, except that they're much more detailed and lively thanks to the advancements that have been made in PS2 graphics coding in the intervening years. Likewise, the soundtrack is enjoyable, assuming you like kid-friendly voice acting and rainforest style music (which many people do).
I wouldn't recommend Scaler over the latest versions of Jak & Daxter or Ratchet & Clank, but, for anyone that's still thirsty for more 3D adventuring after playing those two, this is a great pick-up... especially considering the $20 price-tag.
2/8/2005 Frank Provo