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Colourful, fun and challenging 3D platform games are scarce. We all know that a platforming title gets released in some form nearly every week, but I want one that ticks all the boxes. Skully has made a great effort in fulfilling that criteria. It’s bright, modern, cartoon graphics combined with an enthusiastic audio, and humorous dialogue make this an enjoyable experience from the off. If you then add; a good storyline, hard (ish) levels and a variety of game mechanics, then I think I’ve found a winner.
Developed by Finish Line Games Inc. and published by Modus Games, this delightful platform title asks you to go on an adventure around a remote island. You are reanimated by one deity (Terry), he has summoned you to help with his three siblings. A fight over the land has erupted, and you are expected to help calm down the situation and restore order to this once peaceful land.
A platformer that plays like the classics.
Whenever I think of great titles from this genre, I’m drawn to; Spyro, Mario, Ape Escape and Croc. They all have; strong stories, excellent mechanics, stunning graphics, and are accessible to gamers of all ages. Skully isn’t far off achieving this greatness. The world that you explore is a dangerous place, yet with a little practice, it’s easy to navigate. A mixture of mechanics that must be combined with the environment make for an interesting and unusual experience.
Skully can; roll, jump, and transform into different forms. Random mud pools are located around the map that act as a checkpoint. As you roll into them, they allow you to change to a hulking rock figure. This beast can smash boulders, push over rocks, and more. He will annihilate any creatures in his path and allow Skully to access otherwise blocked areas. It was a clever twist that ensured you had to think about the approach for each problem that you faced.
An expansive world following a linear path.
The world around you appears open and vast, but well designed levels push you towards the stage goal. All 18 chapters that you face follow this approach, though some use a different camera angle to add suspense and tension. Gamers may find the lack of an open-world frustrating, but I enjoyed knowing I was free to explore without the risk of losing myself for hours in each chapter.
Another frustration that may be felt is lack of variety in gameplay. For me, I was ok with this as I believe the game cleverly uses its environment. It ensures you must adapt your approach to its evolving ways; new monsters, many pathways, and more challenging surfaces to traverse mean you must be careful how you plan to proceed in each level.
It has the heart of a platformer, but it’s missing the soul!
Platforming games aren’t all about the story and the loveable characters. No, they are also about the challenge of finding all its collectables and what they add to the core gameplay. These are the soul of the platform genre and if this is weak, it can seriously undermine the integrity of a game. Unfortunately, Skully truly messed this part up!
Flowers are situated around each stage with a counter highlighting how close you are to finding each one. They are well hidden, and locating them all is difficult and adds hours to each playthrough, but it’s a shallow and pointless target. Gathering all, or none has the same impact on the character progression. It matters not if you skip past them as they offer no; boosts, health increase or new attacks. It was a lifeless task that was not in keeping with the genre, and a missed opportunity for the developers.
It’s great to look at.
An argument can be made for its core concept and mechanics. But you can’t say anything bad about its presentation. It’s an incredibly vibrant world that’s amazing to look at. The art style is crisp, detailed, and looks spectacular on the Series X. The camera pans around you in a seamless motion, and the world is alive because of the beautiful landscapes that you explore.
This is helped in part by the folksy and upbeat audio that drills energy deep into everything that the game does. The voice-over work is amusing, well delivered, and helps to build a rapport with each character. The sound effects are childish, magical, and just what the game needs to be in keeping with its theme. It’s an intelligent approach by the developers and is up there with the best of its peers.
Remarkably easy to play.
I’m not usually a fan of constant on-screen tutorials, but it worked well in Skully. Gentle reminders on how to transform were shown at each checkpoint, though it wasn’t always necessary, it was more of a help than a hindrance. Moving and completing actions was a smooth and responsive experience. The simple UI allowed you to focus on what you were doing, and it was a joy to play, even with its mini drawbacks.
If you are a completionist, you are going to despise the flowers by chapter 18. Luckily, there is a level select option to ensure that you don’t endure every stage again. This would be the only reason to return, so it unfortunately does lack replay value.
Does Skully stand out amongst its peers?
On the whole, it does a very good job. Most of the cogs are moving in the right direction, and you will have fun throughout. But the weak points cannot be ignored. The main one has to be the collectables. A disappointing and pointless task that adds no purpose other than to keep you playing for a few more hours. I wish the developers had integrated this portion more intelligently. So, do I recommend it? Yes, it’s positives outweigh its negatives, and it does a good job on the whole. Can you help Terry see eye to eye with his siblings, or is this magical paradise destined to be war-torn for Eternity?