Nothing quite hits the spot like a well-oiled platformer with charming visuals and a simplistic goal of getting from point A to point B. Skully scratches that itch, hitting the heights of the genre in a way that its cohorts like Knack simply failed to, with rich personality and slick polish coating its unique premise from head-to-toe.
Tight-knit controls toppled with a slippery protagonist means that Skully rolls into play as a challenging but smooth ride, even in all its simplicity with the core elements of the gameplay just being moving and jumping. It takes 3D platforming back to its roots whilst also benefiting from a touch of modernity bleeding into its design.
Things move incredibly fast as you’re thrown into an intuitive and near-seamless tutorial, with black ooze checkpoints and rocky structures perfect for leaping on. When jumping, you have to be careful as to not roll over the edge, meaning that timing and your care with the analog sticks is everything. Luckily, the developers behind Skully didn’t stumble into the pitfall that is janky design as the game bears crisp movement and responsive jumping mechanics that make the experience fair yet punishing rather than artificial in its challenge. With difficulty rapidly amping up, you’re kept on your toes from as early as the second chapter which makes the ride all the more engaging.
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However, as challenging as Skully may be, it does suffer from an over-abundance of checkpoints. Nearly every jumping section has one directly after meaning that you rarely get blasted too far back in progress so tension doesn’t often naturally form, at least not early on. This might be a side-effect of making the checkpoints double as transformation-triggers, simply meaning that at a certain point, you unlock the ability to enter a golem which can kill enemies, break down walls and punch down bridges. It’s a neat way to keep things fresh as it adds a bit of interactivity to the world but sharing this with checkpoints may have cheapened difficulty in the long-run.
Story / Personality
In terms of a narrative, you can best compare Skully to some of the classics, whether that’s Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy or Spyro, given that the story is fairly bare-bones but charming in its juvenile nature, retaining a pleasant-to-the-eye aesthetic with an easy-to-follow narrative that doesn’t get too complex but serves to perfectly compliment the drop-dead-gorgeous visuals. Cutscenes are an animated spectacle that feels akin to Divinity 2’s approach, drastically differing from the main game’s style but offering their own plentiful personality. The concept of a reanimated skull rolling around with golems to hop into also sounds somewhat gruesome, so it’s a true testament to the talent of the developers that it came off as cute rather than morbid.
Graphics / Art Direction
One of the major talking points when it comes to Skully is how beautiful it is, from the stunning lighting, to the silky smooth visuals to the charming and cutesy designs, especially in the enemy department – I’m looking at you bouncy blue water fiends. That’s all well and good, but naturally, with it being a port to a less powerful console, there’s gonna be some cutbacks, but luckily, Skully wasn’t hurt too bad, feeling akin to a late PS3 title or a PS4 launch title. The best comparison would likely be somewhere in the ballpark of Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus, albeit less fuzzy and higher definition. Frame rate is also strangely consistent with next-to-no dips, allowing for a truly slick ride that doesn’t end in awkward lag to cause an untimely death.
Final Score: 84%
There’s a lot of personality behind Skully, with plenty of replay value and incentive to plow on. In true platformer fashion, there’s a wealth of collectibles linked to a nifty notebook filled with rewards, making the experience reminiscent of a classic 3D jump-and-run game. Since they’re in short supply in the modern-day, it’s a treat to have a refined and charming new kid on the block that not only holds up on the Switch but utterly kills it, staying true to its core design even in the transition to a less powerful rig.
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