I am an unapologetic platformer fan.
While people talked about the genre being dead, I happily poured hours into Knack, and after everyone crapped all over Knack, I was excited about playing Knack 2. They are enjoyable games… Fight me.
So when I saw the trailer for Skully showing a cute indie platformer, I was in. But what I didn’t expect was how enjoyable Skully would be, in both fantastic and frustrating ways.
Skully wakes up as a resurrected skull with mud inside it – relateable. They’re soon greeted by a deity of earth, Terry. Terry explains how his siblings, the deities of water, wind, and fire, have been fighting. He wants that to stop, and so he gets Skully to help him on that task.
Might as well, right?
What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the story. Early on I was charmed as Terry would talk to Skully regularly, and he has a Jason Mantzoukas way of speaking. I regularly chuckled at things Terry said, and this immediately raises the level of enjoyment of the game above most platformers.
Once you come across the first deity and kick off the first boss fight, the story starts taking a turn that to be blunt I don’t want to spoil. There were a few stages in the game I didn’t expect, but for the most part it’s a well-trodden story with a different style. Despite this, it is still an enjoyable story that’s well worth experiencing.
As with most platformers, the key thing is the platforming. Shocking, I know. Skully kicks off initially by rolling his way through the environment, because, you know… he is a skull. Soon after you find mud pools that work as checkpoints, and give the ability for Skully to turn into different two-legged mud creatures that also give extra powers, for example ability to run faster, or jump higher.
When running around as a mud creature, the game is a passable platformer. But when you are rolling around as a skull, the game is a lot more fun and unique. As the skull it is like controlling a jumping sentient marble, with bouncing around and traversing thin walkways challenging. I kind of wish some of the puzzles that required the mud creatures had been culled, as I would have happily played the whole dang game as the skull.
Generally, the difficulty sits in that happy medium, where once you have a rhythm you will happily roll through levels. But every so often you get a tough as nails challenge. One I got especially stuck on was annoyingly limited by minor issues in gameplay, when the jump wouldn’t happen exactly as expected based on when I hit the button, I would fall in the water, and it would reset the whole puzzle.
On the other end of that though was another stage I got stuck on with rapidly rising lava. I had to navigate a hard path that winds in on itself as the skull. The balance of moving the cameras while moving the skull at speed was nightmarish and it took me a few hours to get past.
The difference was this was fair; I kept overshooting platforms or going too slow and getting caught by the lava. When you get to the end of a level like this it is oh so satisfying, even if you do want to snap a controller at the time.
One area Skully doesn’t overdo it in the looks department. Cut scenes are done using still frames, and the whole game doesn’t look like a top tier game in 2020, but that’s fine.
Honestly the game looks more than good enough, and the Claymation style characters in those cut scenes still look beautiful in their own way. While platformers are less common these days, high budget ones set a high bar. But given the decent voice acting and simple but nice background music, as a whole package Skully is one worthy of experiencing.
At the end of the day Skully is an indie platformer title, and it smashed every expectation I had of it. Mostly enjoyable good platforming, with a decent art style and amazing writing makes Skully well worth experiencing for all platformer fans. No bones about it.