EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Camrin Santchi
previewed on PC
Rock and Roll
Platformers have been a staple of gaming since near the beginning. Since Donkey Kong way back in 1981, and with the evolution into 3D in the Mid-90s (often accredited to either Crash Bandicoot or Mario 64), the platformer genre is beloved to no small degree, even nearly 40 years after its beginning.
In Skully, gamers take the role of the titular 'Skully’, a reanimated skull that has washed up on the shore of a mysterious island and was given the ability to move through the use of magic clay. Skully was brought to this island and given ‘life’ of a sort by Terry, one of the four beings that call the island home, in an attempt to end the war between them which is casting the island into chaos.
Skully, a game from Finish Line Games, takes an interesting spin to the platformer formula… pun entirely intentional…as gamers roll Skully around the island, collecting leaves and avoiding enemies. As the game progresses, Skully gains the ability to form Golems out of the magic clay that gives him ‘life’. Each of these Golems has its own abilities that allow players to further explore the island, adding creative methods of problem solving to the platforming of the game. This is particularly noticeable later on, as once Skully has access to all three Golems there are puzzles that rely on combining the powers of each in order to traverse the island and help Terry save his family and its home from themselves.
A rolling Skull gathers no moss
The most important part of a game like Skully is the controls and platforming. The developers recommend making use of a controller, and I found it to work fantastically. Skully rolls around in his base form as if he’s a ball, and despite moving rather quickly gamers can maneuver Skully very easily. The platforming is tight enough that Skully can climb up on a small amount of areas within the levels if they are careful and move in the right way. The Strong Golem, the first form that is acquired, feels heavy and slow, but very strong. While not as maneuverable as the skull, the Strong Golem is still able to move surprisingly well, with clear indicators of where you’ll land when you jump into the air. Just beware of slopes when rolling around in Skully’s base form, because inclines work incredibly well within this game and can leave Skully splashing into the water… which isn’t good for the clay of our protagonist skull.
The music is simple and catchy, and the cutscenes are told in a storybook manner complete with a cover page and the flipping of pages between the images. This brings out the clear heart was put into this quirky physics-based platformer. This can even be heard in Terry’s dialogue. Although Skully is a silent protagonist, the eldest of the four siblings keeps the conversation going, waxing poetic about the island and demonstrates clear disappointment that the island is being torn apart by the fighting of his siblings. With an odd slime having come to the island, and magic that leaks out from the fighting, the structure of the island is further terraformed by their battles.
Although the preview code we received did not allow us to play all of them, the full game will feature a total of 18 chapters. This is befitting of the storybook aesthetic and are spread out over 7 different ecosystems. Areas such as the beach where Skully washes up (beware of water, it washes away the magic clay that imbues Skully with life), volcanic and swamp styled areas each have their own flavour. As with many platformers, Skully is able to grab collectibles as he rolls around the varied environments, depicted as golden leaves, and the more that gamers collect the more concept art is unlocked on the title screen. That appears to be the only reason to go around attempting to claim all of the golden leaves, of which there are a couple hundred within each level.
No bones about it, Skully is a game with a ton of heart (even if the title character doesn’t), with creative platforming and puzzle elements that make you really want to get things rolling on a modern day platformer that’s sure to be a hit when it releases later in the year.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.