Review: Skully is a Strange but Charming Puzzle Platformer

Screenshot: Skully

There was an era where adventure and platforming games didn’t take themselves too seriously. And then, somewhere in the middle, everything was modern shooters and space operas. It hasn’t been until the last five years or so that the platformer that doesn’t take itself so seriously is making a resurgence—thanks in no small part to the release of games like Yooka Laylee and the remasters of Spyro and Crash Bandicoot. There’s an audience for those types of games, and it’s great to see new takes on the genre.

Skully is an adventure game with platforming and action elements. In it, you play as a skull that is cleverly named Skully by the deity that animated it. As Skully you can roll and jump in platforming sections that are vaguely reminiscent of Marble Madness—remember that ancient game? Yeah, well, Skully is a little like that, just not as weighty, and with the ability to inexplicably hop. Oh yeah, and he can use pools of mud to take the form of three different golems, each with their own abilities.

Screenshot: Skully

Skully isn’t just stuck being a skull, since the deity that gave him life is also the deity that controls the soil and rocks on the island. In his feud with his three siblings, he made Skully adaptable to the problems that might arise in their journey to stop the war. First, Skully gets the form of a large, strong golem that can punch through walls. There’s a small golem that runs fast and can move platforms, and the third golem can double jump, and raise and lower platforms.

A lot of the puzzles in Skully revolve around using Skully’s three golem forms to overcome obstacles—that is, when the game isn’t being a platformer for Skully’s skull form to roll around. Skully can summon multiple golem bodies at once, and while they can’t move while they’re not being occupied by Skully, they can continue holding whatever platform they were last holding. Eventually you can even set the platforms to move to and fro, or up and down, so you can use them to get to inaccessible areas, or across spans that you could not jump. I never found any puzzle particularly difficult, but they’re just clever enough to be entertaining.

Screenshot: Skully

Skully is driven forward by a narrative that propels your character’s actions. The story is okay—it’s a device to get Skully doing his thing across a few variations of environments, with a few different enemy types. Each of the siblings represent different elements: water, fire, air–and your companion, Terry is the deity that controls earth. Terry’s siblings are a little more uptight than the easy-going Terry, and one of them, Brent—the brother who controls air—is insufferable.

The production values in Skully are hit and miss. The dialogue is acted well enough, despite the annoying characters. But the cutscenes are not fully animated. I thought there was something wrong with my game at first, but no, it seems like Skully uses almost a stop motion type of animation style. It’s strange, but it gets the job done.

Screenshot: Skully

There really isn’t too much to Skully—it’s a platformer that ends up being a little short. And despite Terry’s sibling rivalry, there is only two boss fights. It’s a shame, because they really seemed like they were setting up each sibling to be an epic encounter, but that really only happens a couple of times.

I really liked my short time with Skully. My favorite parts were the super-fast platforming sections, where you would have to jump over and around obstacles at a pretty high rate of speed. The puzzle solving is fun, too, especially when you have to synergize with all of Skully’s golem forms.

Skully is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One




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