Review: Skully

Review: Skully

The Canadian studio Finish Line Games, the minds behind the funny Cel Damage HD and the mysterious Maze, has just brought their new adventure to consoles: in Skully, you play with a skull brought back from the dead by Terry, a mysterious and talkative deity, and his magical clay that will traverse an island while helping this deity to reconnect with his siblings.

Hop, roll, avoid obstacles and enemies and use the power of the magic clay to create three different creatures to overcome the challenges of the island. Help Terry to reunite with his siblings and end the struggle between them to save the island in this puzzle platformer published by Modus Games.

What we liked!

  • Paradise island: My, my… the visuals of this island are a delightful surprise! From the moment you start exploring your surroundings, your main concern will be to climb every mountain you find to get some sweet screenshots (remember to hold RB to make Skully look at the cam). And there’s nothing wrong with it since the place is simply gorgeous! Each biome you explore feels special and unique: beaches, forests, mountains, caves, rivers – you name it! Enjoy your initial moments with Skully to sightseeing these places because, once the challenges start to knock on your door, you won’t find enough time to admire this visual spectacle. Not every stage will have the same level of detail, but when you consider the overall presentation of elements in your adventure, like the behavior and animations of the clay when you create one of the creatures (more about them later) or the water effect of some of your enemies, the result will be extremely satisfactory.
  • Music for your ears: The rhythm of your adventure will be dictated by some very good songs that reminded me of Hawaiian and tribal instruments. I must emphasize that the music connects in a brilliant way to the gameplay, giving the perfect pace for your exploration on this island. And let’s not forget about the exquisite dubbing of the siblings, giving an outstanding personality to each one of the brothers. A really nice work, guys!
  • Clay creatures: During your exploration on the island, you will come across some clay pools that work as checkpoints (and are numerous, thank God!) where you can sink Skully to create one of three different clay creatures, each one with a different set of powers and abilities: the Strong one can be used to break walls and dispatch enemies by slamming on the ground; the tiny one can run really fast and use his magic to manipulate rocks and platforms; the jumping one can double-jump, what allows you to reach higher places and can also use his magic to manipulate rocks. You can have three active creatures at the same time in any combination, allowing you to use their abilities to overcome some tough platforming challenges.
Admiring the view

Somewhere between

  • Not-so-animated sequences: We are so used to see in-game animations like the good and old CG, the FMV or even animated sequences with in-game graphics. So, it felt a little strange to see photographs from CGs in animated sequences in Skully. Like if they took some screenshots of a CG and used them to create a photo sequence to tell the story of the game. I understand this may have been an option from the developers, but it feels odd.
  • Puzzles: The puzzles and challenges I’ve faced in this adventure felt… well, more annoying than challenging. Moving platforms so you can reach new areas don’t feel all that challenging if you know what I mean. And when things get more interesting (when you need to combine the abilities of all your clay creatures to proceed), things are too slow to be considered interesting. This sauce could use some extra pepper to become more appealing.
Family reunion

What we disliked

  • Collecting stuff: Boy!, how do I hate the need to collect 100% of <insert name here> in each level to fully complete an adventure. Crackdown and Assassin’s Creed are the first games that come to my mind when I think about it. Here in Skully, you at least know how many items you need to collect in a level to complete it – but it doesn’t necessarily make things easier. You will need to explore EVERY corner, every bush, and look under every rock to get all flowers in each level if you’re aiming for the 1000G. And in levels where you’re running against the clock (some of them gave me a good Crash Bandicoot vibe, in those levels where you mounted the polar bear puppy), things get exponentially more difficult – especially because sometimes things seem to accelerate when you start to put some distance between Skully and what is after him (no spoilers). I strongly recommend you to simply finish each level without worrying about picking all the collectibles. This way you will enjoy the game much more!
  • Platforming imprecision: Every platform game needs, at least, a precise jumping mechanic not to become frustrating. Here, Skully sometimes decides he’s tired of all the jumping up and down and decides not to cooperate with you when jumping between platforms, which will result in you failing over and over again. While the physics in this game are great (moving our rounded friend feels very natural), sometimes it seems like they are turned off when you try to do a simple jump. Add to the formula a camera that, although free, insists on getting to the worst position possible and you will understand why I have so many caveats regarding the core mechanic of the game.
Things are going to get hot in this island

Score: 74%
Skully is a game as much fun as it can be frustrating. With a wonderful world to explore and a captivating soundtrack, it could have been as outstanding as their creators envisioned it. But the problematic controls of our little friend make this game a ‘good’ title when it had all the potential to be something truly remarkable. But it’s still an adventure you should try – and become amazed by the atmosphere of this world you will see!