Scéal is a brief, but hauntingly beautiful adventure game where you play as the spirit of a young girl. Drawing from Irish folklore, the game begins with a raven introducing itself as Branna, the guardian of lost souls. It tasks you with finding three feathers it has hidden inside the Book of Life. Inside the book, you explore what appears to be your old hometown, artfully rendered in a painterly, papercraft style. While searching for the feathers, you must also gather memories of who you were in order to move on from this ghostly existence.
Scéal’s story is a small one, which allows it to be emotional, yet subtle as it handles the themes of a young girl’s life and death. Throughout the game, you meet your parents, rediscover your name, and piece together what happened to you. At one point, you are tasked with activating magical stone circles, and your spirit blooms and changes to appear like an angel. Another time, you are tasked with bringing winter to the land, and your spirit takes the form of a sinister black wraith with a red heart. The winds buffet against you, making moving difficult as if the world is resisting your efforts. The villagers run at the sight of you, and the music turns somber as the once colorful world is now grey and dreary.
“Scéal’s story is a small one, which allows it to be emotional, yet subtle as it handles the themes of a young girl’s life and death.”
You do this in an attempt to save a girl’s life. It is your life. There are multiple endings to Scéal, and the choice is ultimately left up to you. Despite this, I would consider replayability to be limited. The game does not feel repetitive even though you are doing the same actions over and over because it is so short; I completed Scéal and got all the endings in around an hour. In a way, this is a benefit — Scéal knows that it is a small game and won’t push to make itself bigger than it is.
There are no enemies or puzzles in Scéal as it is largely an exploration game. However, there are time limits, which is part of the reason why this game is so brief. The time limits don’t have story consequences, so if you run out of time, Scéal simply has you restart from a checkpoint. Its only purpose gameplay-wise is to make you rush so, unfortunately, you cannot take your time through this beautiful game. The main mechanic of Scéal is painting different objects to bring them to life. From ivy-covered houses to stone circles, you paint these objects to change them and progress through the game.
The controls are simple in that you move the spirit by clicking and dragging her glowing heart. You move right or left along set paths that fork up and down, but it can be a little tricky when switching to a different forked path as you must drag the heart at the right angle or else you will head down the wrong way. This caused me a bit of grief during the last chapter of the game, where you have to run all over the map within the span of a day, and getting caught on those forks cost me precious time. I also encountered a glitch at one of the endings, where the game got stuck and would not let me proceed, forcing me to quit and redo the level.
“Scéal is a game that knows its simplicity, and offers players a light but moving playthrough.”
Scéal is set inside a storybook, and the game makes use of a simple watercolor art style to illustrate that. As you move through the game, different background pieces pop up and hazier parts become vivid as you paint them, with the overall color palette changing as time progresses from day to night. What is most outstanding about Scéal, however, is its soundtrack. The stunning Irish folk songs in the game range from hopeful to haunting and bring a quiet sense of grief alongside its beauty.
Overall, Scéal is a game that knows its simplicity, and offers players a light but moving playthrough. While there are some minor issues, it combines an unassuming, yet emotional story with delicate graphics and a breathtaking soundtrack to create a refreshing experience anyone can enjoy.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Surprisingly moving story
- Delicate art style
- Sublime soundtrack
- Finicky controls
- Unnecessary time limits