Welcome to the peaceful world of Aftervale where the dead cohabit beneath the world of humans. In fact, can the dead cohabit, or do they co-deadit? Anyway, I digress. This is the latest platformer to land on digital shelves and it's the first new game from Konami (although it's developed by Uzuka) that I've played in some time. Here's what I thought of it.
In Skelattack, you take on the role of Skully the Skeleton and his quick-witted friend, Muld- sorry, Imbar the bat. You live in Aftervale, which is this charming little place filled with bars and shops, as well as a number of wonderful characters. The story goes a bit like this: Those pesky humans have decided to attack and through their actions, they threaten the very existence of your realm. It is therefore up to Skully to save the day.
Initially, I was a bit worried that Skelattack was trying to be a side-scrolling version of Medievil, but safe to say, while it isn't overly original in any particular respect, it shines through in its own terms. So, that's the story, now let's crack on with what you really want to know about when summing up a platformer such as this: gameplay and graphics.
I'll start with the visuals, as I was absolutely blown away by how good this game looks. It looks like a really clean and beautiful comic book. The colours aren't as vibrant or intense as they are in Fury Unleashed, which also had a comic-theme, and instead, Skelattack opted more for a paler set of pastel shades. The results look incredible, and the comic book style really supported the witty and interesting dialogue between the two main characters. At times, it has the look and feel of a classic point and click adventure such as Monkey Island.
During your adventure, you step into a variety of environments and then run and jump your way through them, killing humans and collecting gems as you go. The humans all seemed to have different combat styles, for example, there was one who threw a knife and another who could block your attacks. While it sounds simplistic, it had charm and the combat never got tiring. Every now and then there was also an encounter with a boss, although these felt like they could have been plucked out of any old fantasy RPG.
Now, let's move onto the finer points of the mechanics as this is, in my opinion, where the game lets itself down a bit. For all the stunning backdrops, the excellent character design, the engaging action and the witty dialogue, the game made me rage quit a number of times. The jumping mechanics, in particular, were just so frustrating. It took me an age to get to grips with the wall jumping, and I found myself slipping and sliding down so many surfaces before I finally got the knack of it.
This was particularly annoying at the start as there seemed to spikes everywhere. The developer seems to have been liberal with traps and it was infuriating just how many times I ended up dying. I thought it was too punishing and that took a lot of the fun out the experience for me. Sure, it was a thrill when I finally scaled that wall, dodged the spike traps, and evaded those spinning fans, but early on, in particular, it felt like I spent more time dying than being undead.
Luckily there were a few saving graces that stopped this being a terminal complaint. Firstly, there were a load of checkpoints, and you never really have to go too far back when you die. Secondly, the loading times were pretty solid so you don't have to wait too long to get back in the action. The last point I'd like to raise is about how death didn't have any effect - well no real long-lasting consequences other than losing you a few gems to spend on upgrading your health, for example. But if there's no major consequence to dying, why make me do it so much?
At the end of the day, I had fun with Skelattack, at least for the most part. There was a lot of dying and yes I found it too tricky at times, but the combat and the action was always engaging. Finding keys to open doors, dodging crocodiles and spike traps in the sewers - it's all good, clean fun. In fact, it's a great-looking and entertaining platformer, it just seems to have the difficulty ramped up a bit too high. Still, I'd recommend it to most platformer fans, just maybe not those with anger issues.
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