Finish Line Game's Skully features possibly the most unlikely platforming hero that I have come across to date - a human skull. In a lot of ways, it's your standard platformer, but it has physics-based controls and a light puzzle-solving focus, whilst using Skully's multiple forms. There's plenty going for it, but with platformers being such a saturated genre as of late, is this one worth checking out?
Playing as the titular rolling skull, you have been enlisted by the earth deity, Terry, to fan the flames of a family feud that has been raging on for decades. This ongoing war between elemental siblings threatens to cause some serious harm to your homeland if unresolved, so the stakes here are certainly high. The story is fully-voice acted and animated with several still image cinematics that crop up during key plot developments. The dialogue I found packed full of laughs, and each cinematic proved to be a joy to watch, even if most of the jokes played on Terry's blissful ignorance or Skully's inability to talk.
Physics-based platforming and light puzzle-solving act as the foundation of Skully's 18 distinct chapters. These chapters are mainly linear and require you to precisely hop, skip, and jump your way across parts of the environment whilst avoiding fatal hazards, such as water and lava. However, whilst in his default skull form Skully handles pretty slippery and will often roll back and forth unpredictably. I can't tell you how many times I carefully hopped across an entire gauntlet of moving platforms only to then trail off to my demise.
Fortunately, this doesn't act as the bulk of the experience as Skully can submerge himself in pools of clay scattered across each level to change form. These various forms all have their own abilities and can be used in conjunction to solve the different puzzles you'll encounter. In one particular area, for example, we had to use Skully's 'dash form' to move a floating platform and then had to switch to the 'strength form' to launch our way towards it. The puzzles here were easily the highlight, and we found ourselves feeling much more in control in platforming situations when playing as one of these different forms.
Most of the chapters saw us try and move Skully from point A to point B but there were a few deviations to this general structure. There's boss encounters and several chase sequences too, which proved to be tense and changed the perspective of the platforming. The boss encounters we found to be a complete breeze though, as we were given checkpoints after inflicting each bit of damage. This meant that we could quickly roll on with the story but it felt disappointing to take down these all-powerful deities without an ounce of effort.
The roughly six-hour adventure saw us venture through seven different ecosystems and we were impressed by the environmental variety on display. As we pushed on with Terry by our side we encountered burning forests, shadowy caves, and tropical beaches. As well as providing some stunning areas to explore, these ecosystems also introduced their own mechanics to keep the platforming fresh. In the caves, we had to move glowing blocks to illuminate our path, and in another chapter, gusts of winds threatened to sweep us away.
Glowing flowers are the primary collectables in Skully and are found scattered across every inch of the environment. Obtaining every flower is certainly a challenge with many requiring the player to think outside of the box, but sadly the reward is hardly anything worthwhile. For valiantly obtaining these collectables you are simply rewarded with unlocking concept artwork and we found ourselves unlocking the majority just playing as normal. A more substantial reward would have likely encouraged me to return to these stages another time.
It has its flaws that's for sure; the physics-based platforming feels too slippery and unpredictable, and the collectables failed to yield a satisfying reward. That said, I liked how puzzles required me to use Skully's multiple forms cooperatively and how each chapter offered something new with regards to platforming and exploration. While it's not perfect, I still found Skully to be a fun-filled glimpse back to the PS2-era platformers that occupied far too much of my youth.
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