Editor's Note: This review was written with a review copy provided free of charge by Noble Kale. Maiyannah also follows Darkest Kale on Twitter. (Darkest Kale is a separate Twitter account operated by the same developer)
Quarries of Scred is an arcade puzzle game developed and published by Noble Kale. This one is a little bit of a deceptive title, because on its surface it might look like just one in a long string of retro arcade games and it doesn't really quite stand out from the crowd. While most of these games tend to be rather shallow, Quarries of Scred is actually deceptively deep.
So let's get one thing out of the way first.
Quarries of Scred is retro - it is a hard pixelly hate fest that will make you cry
It's the kind of game that's easy to get into and hard to master. Very hard to master. The central puzzle mechanic revolves around mining in a 2d grid with a gravity that pulls hard rock tiles towards the bottom, and they will roll off the valuable gems - possibly onto you! A comment from Darkest Kale was made to the effect of "the suffering of players sustains me." That's the kind of hard we're talking about here.
However, it's worth noting that while most games from the retro Atari 2600/NES era that Quarries of Scred is calling back to were simply unfair in their difficulty, often presenting situations where you basically just had to memorise patterns . I cast my mind back to the "Nintendo Hard" advertisements I used to remember hearing, games that were a super challenge - mostly because of completely arbitrary mechanics that were very often random. Quarries of Scred doesn't do that. While threre's a clot of intricacy to the way that the falling mechanic works, for example, the game is actually entirely fair: it follows the ruleset of it's mechanics, the mechanics are fairly easy to understand, and they make sense. If you have a full grasp of the game, and take care to play skillfully, you can win pretty consistently. (Which, of course, is why I did not fare so well generally with Quarries of Scred, because I suck.)
The mechanics of the game are pretty tight and strangely addictive
Here's the one thing Quarries of Scred had to do right, and by god it does it, at least for me: it finds that sweet spot of being just frustrating enough I don't quit. It's the kind of frustrated anger that grips that controller tight in hand, white-knuckled, and gets shit done. The determined gamer gal in me was not going to let this game beat her, I would say in my head, likely only a fleeting moment prior to another boulder smooshing me.
The central mechanic in Quarries, if it could be said to be something other than "dying" (which is debatable), is what could probably be described as gravity, of a sorts. You are essentially trying to dig out gems, while avoiding digging out the boulders that will fall on you and kill you. There is a risk/reward mechanism here as well: if you get the gems to fall onto you you get the value in credits and the gem, whereas you only get the gem if you just pick them up normally.
There is a decent amount of depth to the game as well
That's the jive really - while the core mechanic itself is quite simple and uncomplicated, there's additional complexity on top of it - you have monsters that you'll have to deal with especially as you dig deeper, lasers, mines, and more to deal with them, and such. It has a technological device system, which basically allows you to carry one of these things, all which behave differently and have strong points and weaknesses, and it forces you to be strategic with those choices - just as you have to be with the very decision to do that at all - after all, that can be 2k of the 7.5k you need to finish! So it's a game that really challenges you with decisions like that - assuming it doesn't roll a boulder on you first.
Yeah, I guess I am mentioning the deaths a lot in this review. They feature prominently. Don't believe me? Watch my review stream: