Skully is a cute little platformer with a strong emphasis on rolling and puzzles and a heartfelt story that can get surprisingly tense.
As the market gears up for the release of the newest console generation this winter, gamers are beginning to get a clearer and clearer picture of what the environment will look like when the PS5 and the Xbox Series X finally launch. One interesting detail is that in all the upcoming games we’ve seen thus far, there are very few platformers. There are exceptions, like Sackboy: A Big Adventure, but most of the titles being shown for the new consoles are action-adventure games or horror titles like The Medium. Fortunately for platformer fans, Skully offers one last taste of jumping fun before the old consoles get phased out.
Skully centers around the diminutive title character, a small skull filled with a ball of mud. Skully finds himself on an idyllic island ruled by a family of four elemental siblings who have been feuding for a long time. One of these siblings brings Skully to life and tasks his new friend with helping him save the island and bring his family back together. This plot seems simple and predictable at the start, but as the game unfolds the story proves much more complex than one might expect, and it hits some startlingly deep emotional notes and some genuinely surprising twists. The ending feels a bit hasty but the message is strong and overall the story is an unexpected high note.
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Skully traverses their island environment by rolling. They can also jump, somehow, and climb vines, which is an eternally baffling feature. Rolling feels great, and the sense of speed is deeply satisfying without going so fast as to lose control entirely. It should be noted, though, that some of the platforming challenges are nigh-impossible without a controller, so PC players beware. As fun as it is to roll and jump around, the game could have done without vine climbing. Since Skully has no limbs, there’s no visual indicator to determine whether or not they’re holding on to the vines, which can lead to some unnecessary stress when the vines are incorporated into platforming segments.
In addition to rolling around, Skully can summon three alternate forms from checkpoints that are scattered throughout each level. Each of these forms have distinct abilities that are necessary for traversal throughout the island. One form can smash through barriers and hurl Skully across long distances, while the other two forms have either increased speed or better jump capabilities, and can use telekinesis to move platforms throughout the environment. These forms are all used in puzzles that pop up with increasing frequency as the game progresses. These puzzles can be pretty hit-or-miss, but most of the frustration simply comes from setting up the platforms in just the right way, only to botch a jump, die, and be forced to start all over again. It’s tedious, but it could be worse.
Technical issues can also hinder these puzzles. The telekinetic forms eventually get the power to make a platform move on its own by setting up two points for it to move back and forth between. This is a boon for traversal and a vital mechanic in almost every puzzle that comes afterward, but it doesn’t always work perfectly. Platforms will sometimes stop for no reason, or fail to start in the first place. Brute force tends to be the only recourse for getting them working again, which is a frustrating waste of time, but not a huge issue. This is the most common bug but it isn’t the only one. The camera, which the player usually has full control over (except for certain scripted chase sequences) can sometimes plant itself behind a barrier and effectively blind the player. This is another mostly minor annoyance but it can lead to some unnecessary deaths.
Skully is, for the most part, a delightful little game. It is little, though; it can be played all the way through in just a few hours. But the island setting is rendered beautifully and the platforming challenges are a lot of fun to tackle. Some of the puzzles drag down the experience more than they elevate it, but they’re easy enough, for the most part. Platformer fans who are on the hunt for a good alternative to everyone’s favorite plumber should definitely consider giving little old Skully a try.
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Skully releases on August 4th for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A digital PC code was given to Screen Rant for review purposes.
3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)
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About The Author
Peter has been playing video games ever since he was a child, pulling his chair up to the TV so he could hold the GameCube controller for Wind Waker. Video games have been a vital part of his life ever since. They’ve been an important piece of his academic career as well; at the University of Redlands, where he studied Creative Writing and Theater, he once submitted a philosophy paper on the video game Soma. Today, in addition to his freelance work for Screen Rant, Peter spends most of his time blogging, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and, of course, playing video games. He believes that video games are an important and oft overlooked medium for telling stories, as well as an excellent medium for having fun. His favorite video game is still Wind Waker, the one that started it all, and he credits the fun he had with that game as the reason he’s here writing for Screen Rant today.
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