Skully Review (PC)
Skully is a 3D platformer all about…a skull! The little guy gets a second chance at life after washing ashore an island. Terry, a rock-loving deity, brings them back to life by cramming magical mud into their brain space. You set off together to stop the fighting between his bickering siblings and bring peace back to the island.
Our titular character, Skully, rolls around at sonic speed. They can also can also hop and grab onto vine walls through sheer willpower…or maybe magic? I found the controls to be nice and tight which made precision platforming over lily pads and rocks a delight.
Skully’s archnemesis is water. I assume this is because water washes away the mud keeping them reanimated. Mud pools function as checkpoints that can refill your health and allow you to transform into golems. I found the golems to be less fun to play since they were larger, clunkier, and their abilities all had a singular purpose. The big brute golem’s punch could break or topple walls but did not affect enemies in the slightest. Instead you needed to use a ground wave attack to hit enemies. I found the abilities to be rather a one-note method to get past a copy-pasted obstacle so I could get back to the skull rolling fun.
Skully can eject himself out of his golem mechs, allowing up to three on the map at a time. He can also reenter them, meaning there “might” be puzzles where you need to carefully place your golems due to limited mud pools. I did not find a situation where I needed to do this within the first few hours of the game so I cannot really comment on it.
Collectible, glowing flowers are scattered across the level to incentivize exploration. As you collect flowers you unlock concept art. Levels felt medium to long depending on how much sidetracking you did getting those collectibles. There is a chapter select in the main menu if you wish to complete your floral collection.
While I enjoyed most of the levels, there were some duds for me. My least favorite was a water chase level with a fixed camera angle. I prefered looking at my character from above so I could tell where I was going to land. This fixed angle, however, was from a lower angle much further away than normal which made depth perception difficult. Skully would also respawn too close to the camera within the water wave effect so I couldn’t see them. The water would noticibly speed up or slow down based on how fast I went which felt jarring, but at least the level ended faster. Skully may have gotten a bit drenched.
Speaking of which, do you like playing games super fast? While I am not a speedrunner in any sense of the word, I did find that there was a lot of potential for speedrunning here. Some levels do have temporary invisible walls until you stumble into the required cutscenes. Otherwise Skully’s speed and ability to hop up most obstacles would allow me to skip over get get through some sections of the early levels quickly.
Terry, a magical elemental being of some kind, wants his siblings to stop fighting. As his new friend, it is up to you to platform your way to the lair of each elemental sibling while listening to them bicker in the background. While I did not mind this idea, the bickering did enter childish argument territories which clashed with the idea of Terry wanting to talk things out and make peace. I did appreciate the inclusion of voice acting as I could listen to the story while I bounce around the levels.
In cutscenes, characters are frozen in expressive poses as they speak. Skully is given expression through stop motion-style nods and movements. I did find this jarring since Skully would be moving while other characters within the same scene were not. These cutscenes did the job, but I could not help comparing them to those found in Bayonetta which were more dynamic and had physics on hair and clothing to add more movement to each shot. These felt more like a budgeted way of storytelling rather than a purposful stylistic choice.
The lighting is nice and moody on this mysterious island. The overcast skies and fog works rather nicely with the chosen color pallet. Skully is about mud, so expect a lot of earthy greys, browns, and terracotta orange. The landscape is dotted with pops of color with green plants and autumn leaves.
I also appreciated the and sculpted look of the ground, with the first level having hexagonal rock formations that stood out. The golems and characters looked like hand carved figures with a mix of hard and smoothed edges in their designs.
Skully’s soundtrack has an adventurous, but tribal islander feel with its choice of instruments. I did feel like I heard the same song for a while, but that may be because I played the first few levels collectible hunting. After a while I decided to move on since I felt my interest waning. The tunes were not anything super memorable, but I think they helped fill out the atmosphere as my skull rolled along.
Skully is a little rough around the edges, but has a good heart…or skull. Some mechanics were not my favorite, but the basic skull rollin’ gameplay was a blast. I do think there are better games in the genre, especially for the $29.99 price tag. That being said, if you are looking for a new platformer to play that is really good when it hits its highs then give it a shot!
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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- Skully's controls were tight with fun, fast movement.
- Good voice acting that matched character personalities.
- Pretty visuals using natural tones and environments.
- Neat sculpted or carved visual style.
- Single purpose puzzle solving abilities.
- Little enemy and obstacle variety.
- Low-budget feeling cutscenes.
- Lack of interesting collectible rewards.
- A few unpleasant level mechanics.
- Character dialogue was mostly childish arguing.