by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Uncovering the bones
After previewing Skully back in June, I was very eager to see where the story went. And after playing the full release now, it makes me very happy that I got the chance to look at it again. No bones about it, playing as a bouncing skull full of magical clay is surprisingly fun. Gamers play as the titular Skully and maneuver across a vibrant island, where powerful siblings are at war with each other.
The first of the siblings Skully meets is Terry the oldest of the siblings, and it is Terry who gives Skully life (of a sort). Terry’s goal is to stop his siblings from fighting and ending up destroying the island they call home…but to do this, he needs help from his silent, spherical friend. Cutscenes that occur across the game are shown in a storybook format that can leave players smiling at their charm, particularly with the light touches of animation added to breathe even more life into the world of the game. Such aspects include the flickering fire of Fiona, or the ripples of water off Wanda - two of Terry’s siblings - that show a beautiful amount of care was put into making this game fun to look at, not just to play.
Over the course of the levels, Skully can take on multiple forms; from bubbling pools of magical clay, which also act as health restoration and checkpoints. In my preview I wrote a bit on the lumbering and powerful Strong form (the only available form we had in the preview code), but now that the full game is released, I can happily say that the Swift form and Vault forms create quite the trifecta with it. Each form is exactly what it sounds like, though Swift and Vault also have the ability to move certain platforms (Swift Horizontally, Vault Vertically), causing quite a layer to puzzles in later areas. Gamers can coordinate up to three golems at once, with any combination of the three varieties of forms that they desire. And Skully himself can be rolled along outside of them to hop into whichever is needed, causing some creative solutions to the collecting of leaves in each level or simply to progress through it.
The platforming in Skully can be treacherous at times, and can be downright punishing at others, which makes things all the more satisfying when timing and routing finally combine in a successful outcome. Skully’s threats on this island aren’t just from environmental hazards like falling off a ramp, but there’s heavy winds that can send him flying, lava, water, and fire and water creatures to boot, meaning this is quite a treacherous journey for a silent little skull. Fortunately along the way players have Terry to keep them company, usually bantering with Skully and imbuing him with a personality (he seems to think the skull is quite a chatterbox with a bit of a temper, to which Skully will shake itself in a way that seems to be the shrugging of shoulders), though he will often attempt to converse with whichever sibling is nearest, usually to entertaining results since they bicker much like one could expect superpowered siblings would.
The levels in Skully are rather vast, and sometimes the correct direction to go isn’t necessarily obvious, which can lead to gamers needing to explore for a while in order to get their bearings and figure out where they may need to go. I appreciated the opportunity to explore the well crafted levels and listen to the lovely musical choices implemented. Some players may grow weary of this, particularly since some gimmicks are not necessarily explained, but a little bit of exploration and experimentation goes a long way. Indeed, sometimes certain tricks can be figured out by accident that allow for some unexpected solutions to future puzzles.
A head of the rest
In all, Skully is a quirky and entertaining romp with fun puzzles and platforming, amusing character interactions, a good story, beautiful music, and awe-inspiring landscapes. Easily an entertaining game that this reviewer can and will gladly come back to time and time again, no bones about it.
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Fun story and design, Challenging yet satisfying platforming
Occasional loss of direction, Controls may take some getting used to