Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
After washing up on strange magical shores, you're reanimated by a strange deity, a very strange deity indeed. He uses clay and molds you into a tool to help him on his quest. A quest to stop his siblings arguing and rescue these strange lands they have created together. Welcome to Skully.
I had seen a few Skully trailers before I started this review so I sort of knew what to expect. A cute 3D platformer with transformations, collectables and challenges aplenty. I did find parts of Skully quite challenging, not over the top difficult but enough of a challenge to make me have to work hard at certain sections and die a few times in the process.
You start off as a rolling skull, similar to something like Super Monkey Ball or, if you are as old as me, Marble Madness. You roll around the opening sections of the game oblivious to some of the challenges that lie ahead. Before you know it you have unlocked a few transformations and are using these transformations to get through the platforming challenges of each stage.
The first you unlock is a strength-based golem, used for attacking enemies and smashing up rocks. You can use this form to create new pathways and he is the general bruiser of the transformations you unlock. Even at this point, with only 2 versions of your character, you can see how Skully will play out. Use the stronger character to kill some enemies, use him again to open up new pathways then revert back to the rolling skull to sneak through small gaps and climb vines. Skully is about using your transformations and using them collectively correctly.
Before you know it you have several forms, capable of great things and the levels get more complex and more difficult as you progress. It's the water that is your worst enemy, it obviously distorts the magical clay that was used to bring you back to life, a couple of brushes with the wet stuff and you're a goner. Luckily clay patches, used as checkpoints, health recharging stations and places to change your form are abundant.
Whenever you fail in your pursuits, whenever a rage-inducing jump falls short for the fourth time or a tricky platform section gets the better of you, you never have too far to go to get back to the action. Some sections are tricky but due to the frequent checkpoints, nothing is too irksome to worry about.
It was entertaining working out the Skully's many environmental puzzles. Working out what order to use your forms in, for which scenario, was the base for most of the games puzzles. Where should I move platforms? Where can I find the next patch of clay to change forms again? All the while dodging enemies and hazards. In the same vein as the platforming, if you made an error, which I did a few times, a checkpoint is never too far away.
During your many jaunts, as with a lot of these 3D platformers, there are collectables a-plenty and in Skully they take the form of flowers. Most of them are strewn along each stages main path but some of them are in hard to reach, optional or hidden areas that test your platforming mettle. I enjoyed these little challenges and I revelled in trying to find all the flowers in each level. These flowers unlocked pieces of art too, which was a nice bonus.
While you are exploring for these collectable tokens of joy, you will see how well the levels are designed. You can crawl up vines, jump over massive gaps and find your rewards accordingly. If you find some sneaky hideaway somewhere you will no doubt be rewarded with a massive bunch of flowers for your troubles. It is often worth the tricky trip across tricky platforming offshoots from the main path to be rewarded with more collectable currency.
As I stated earlier, sometimes, Skully can be quite difficult. Most of the main path is simple enough but sometimes, especially on optional paths, the platforming can get quite technical. From jumping onto very small rocks to rolling across very narrow branches, Skully can test your platforming skills and I quite enjoyed that. Due to most of the harder parts being optional I think Skully will fit most players skill levels.
Graphically, Skully looks great most of the time. The water looks nice and the characters are well modelled. The soundtrack is of the same standard, nice cheerful, melodic melodies accompany your many outdoor pursuits. Skully also performs well, I did not have any performance issues and found no bugs to report whatsoever. All in all, a rolling, transforming, good time.
In a world of 'Games As A Service' titles and online shooters, it was nice to drift back to simpler times, times where your only objective was to make your way through a level and collect some stuff. No weekly online challenges, no micro-transactions, just a simple single-player old-school platformer. It was very refreshing and rather enjoyable.