There are hidden object games (average and unimaginative) and there are hidden object games (exceptional and inventive). The Scruffs is, predominantly, one of the latter. It offers the usual seek-and-find ingredients – varied locations brimming with "treasures" for Antiques Roadshow and a mix of interspersed mini-games – but it does so with greater panache than the majority of its contemporaries.
With a flair all its own, plus an abundance of witty banter, The Scruffs serves up a puzzle-filled package that includes a chapter-based storyline, 20 attractive locations, thousands of items to sift through, 15 historical artifacts to uncover, Timed and Relaxed modes of play, a unique hint mechanism, enjoyable mini-games and a set of charming characters.
Fans of primetime cartoons and BBC sitcoms will feel right at home with the Scruffs, a quirky extended family where parents, siblings and grandparents all dispense pleasantries with a distinctly British accent. Unfortunately, dear old dad’s been sacked and the family’s home hangs in the balance. But, all’s not lost. Grandpa has a solution, an elaborate scavenger hunt to recover valuable hidden artifacts and to reveal a shocking family secret. Your help, however, is required to pull it off.
Beginning with fare that’s part of every hidden-object game produced, play revolves around trotting from one location to the next in search of miscellaneous articles. And, a keen eye is needed to locate specific objects in what looks more like the inside of a local Goodwill store struck by a tornado than a room inhabited by anyone except the most extreme hoarder or compulsive spendthrift. Locate and click on an item from a supplied list and it’s removed from the inventory and the room until all requisite objects are collected. But, don’t click randomly or you’ll "earn" a 30-second penalty (unless you’re playing Relaxed Mode).
After you unearth all listed objects in the current locale, it’s off to the next. Well, sort of, as The Scruffs mixes things up amid the seek-and-find process by dividing gameplay into chapters comprised of several locations. Also, hidden in many rooms is a family picture, 20 in all. Locate one and you’re given the chance to pause your searching and proceed immediately to a mini-game. Called Scribbles, it challenges you to identify, in sequential order, 20 "scribbles" that have been added to a photo. Get 15 or more correct and you earn a silver star. Properly identify all 20 in a row and you receive a gold star (do the same with every photo and you’ll learn a secret).
In addition, once you’ve completed each chapter you’re whisked away to another mini-game, a photo-based jigsaw puzzle that reveals one of the hidden artifacts, which you then must retrieve. However, in another unique twist, it may be in the last room you completed… or it could be in one of several other rooms from the current chapter. A total of 15 relics are spread across an equal number of chapters.
For those struggling with a hard to find item (other than an artifact), a unique hint system incorporates the family pooch, Scruffy. Feed him a doggie treat and he’ll guide you, barking more frequently the closer you get. As for canine goodies, three are provided at the start of each chapter with more hidden for your discovery throughout the Scruffs’ homestead.
Another standout of The Scruffs is its superb production values, chief among which are the great British voice-overs. They’re high quality, quirky vocals you usually don’t find in a casual title. Music and sound effects are exceptional, too, while cartoon-style animations and photos of the Scruff’s are excellent in their own right. Location and object graphics don’t quite measure up to the animations, but are good nonetheless.
From the standpoint of perfection, nothing is… including The Scruffs. As with most hidden-object games, item locations are fixed. So, when replaying the game you already know where most objects are stashed, even though the list changes. Also, jigsaw puzzles lack challenge, as the pieces are rather large. Seek-and-find developers really need to start employing selectable difficulty levels that would, in this instance, adjust the size of the puzzle pieces. Still, these are small nits to pick in an otherwise great diversion.
If you’re a fan of hidden-object romps, place The Scruffs on your short list. It’s family friendly, fun to play and highly entertaining. Hopefully, it will follow in the footsteps of Mystery Case Files and Travelogue 360 and kick off a fresh series.