The Kingdom of Cubold is under threat with the evil court wizard Squaruman resurrecting the dead in order to impress those who once laughed at him. Among the dead to be resurrected was the ancient hero who must use their newfound skeletal body to save the kingdom once more. In a gorgeous 3D pixel art style, travel through the castle, meadows and dungeons to return peace to the kingdom.
Skellboy plays like a standard action game from an isometric viewpoint, with the fixed camera following the player’s movements. The controls are suitable for a simplistic action game such as this, however I did often find them to be muddy. What I mean by this is that attacks don’t feel as though they connect as well as one would like them to. The HD Rumble certainly helps to create haptic feedback, but each swing simply misses that oomph that action games are known for.
Instead of purchasing and upgrading your gear, you simply swap out your body parts with that of your enemies once you defeat them. This provides new abilities to experiment with whilst simultaneously advancing the plot in clever ways. My only complaint with this is that when defeating enemies, you aren’t rewarded with coins, XP or any of the like, meaning that once you’ve found your ideal gear, I often found myself wanting to avoid enemies once they’ve spawned.
Skellboy unfortunately suffers from frequent frame rate dips, but this tended to happen more during less demanding segments; it’s almost as if Umaiki Games knew this and made sure that the game held up when it was most needing to. A Glitch also had me stuck at the bottom of a well and my character wouldn’t move, forcing me to restart the game. In the modern era, these performance issues can be patched in an update but at its time of release, it’s quite unfortunate.
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Each boss battle has cut-and-dry strategies to them, avoiding basic hack ‘n slash tactics and opting for more subtle tells in their movements. It allows for each fight to be unique and entertaining, despite the controls not being as intuitive as one would like.
The entire game is all interconnected as you may see familiar locations that you had traversed chapters ago. This makes the atmosphere feel more natural and less like you’re simply proceeding from one level to the next.
Whilst the interconnectivity is welcomed, it does make it easy to get lost, therefore I found it baffling that Skellboy doesn’t have a map of any kind. The Savegraves that you find and activate can be used to fast travel to other Savegraves, but finding new areas can be unnecessarily convoluted.
The plot is very simple with your classic hero destined to save the world from the evil wizard Squaruman. However as the plot is carried out, more backstory is shared about Squaruman, allowing you to empathise and see both sides of the same coin. This provides much more depth compared to a more cliche black and white approach.
The characters engage in some great banter dialogue that is very self referential. There were some moments where dialogue didn’t flow well, as well as the occasional grammatical error, but it certainly maintained a lighthearted air throughout.
Graphics / Art Design
Skellboy’s art style is what will instantly capture peoples’ attention. Its pixelated 3D art style is reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 with a polished polygonal approach. We’re getting to the point where the Nintendo 64 was the first console for budding indie developers and if that means that more games are going to utilise art styles similar to Skellboy’s, then that’s something to get excited about.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is so lively and entertaining that if it weren’t so repetitive, I’d play it at every Halloween. It simultaneously has an upbeat tone whilst maintaining a cheesy horror vibe that resonates well with the game’s theme. With a chip tune focus, it’s something that you’d expect to hear in a 90s horror children’s cartoon – and I love it!
Final Score: 77%
In all its pixelated goodness, Skellboy is a clever game that packs a lot of charm. The game’s shortcomings primarily consist of quality of life and performance issues, half of which can be patched in later updates. Its humour and tone is great for something to kick back with and enjoy and even though you may often find yourself frustrated, you’ll be sure to look back on Skellboy with fondness.
Thank you for checking out our Skellboy Switch review, thank you Umaiki Games for providing us with the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
- Andrew Caluzzi (Inca Studios / Camped Out!)
- Belinda Cubitt