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Skellboy Review: Frail

/ Feb 24th, 2020 No Comments

Skellboy review

As a medium video games present a challenge to gauge expectations accurately. A trailer for a video game can be great with gorgeous visuals and an infectious snippet of the soundtrack. However, it is only a dimension of the final product. 

Video games unlike other media can’t get across the tactile and play aspects of it in a trailer. As such we can find ourselves too excited for a video game and those lofty expectations may be to the detriment of the game.

Skellboy has a lot of promise, but it doesn’t measure up. For all the positives of its aesthetic and presentation it drops the ball in its story and gameplay.

Head and Shoulders…

Skellboy excels in its presentation with gorgeous and inventive visuals. The music is light, chip tune-y goodness that matched the quality of the 2D meets 3D pop-up book graphics. Taken sonically and visually alone, it is a killer game. However, the game falters when it comes to story and gameplay.

Skellboy review
Everyone besides Skellboy feels like they are trying out for Catch a Rising Star.

Hordes of monsters and the undead are roaming around terrorizing the Cubold Kingdom. Granddice Fluffybeard has ordered citizens to seek shelter to avoid the mayhem caused by the royal wizard, Sir Squaruman. All this occurred because Princess Zoletta stood the wizard up for a date. Now the only hope is for a hero to show up and stop Sir Squaruman and save Cubold Kingdom.

While the narrative has plenty of humorous moments that land, it makes everything feel trivial. The infinite jest doesn’t work when there aren’t any straight people to play off, and Skellboy as a silent protagonist doesn’t work well to fill that void. Ultimately, whatever big bad or great evil that must be vanquished is undercut by the lack of urgency. Any stakes to the story are deflated by the blase attitude. It feels like an exercise rather than a backdrop to draw you into the game.

Skellboy review
The jokes and levity wears you down eventually where you just want one character to give exposition without some shtick.

That sense of urgency and stakes extends to the gameplay as well, sadly. Make no mistakes, Skellboy is a competent hack-n-slash that is certainly playable. The quality of construction isn’t the issue, but the feel. 

Point blank, the game feels and plays slow. Whether that is to hammer home the skeleton/undead aesthetic or to feel more old school results in gameplay that is ponderous in both its exploration and combat.

Skellboy review
Zombies are common creeps, but they are about as difficult to dispatch as most other enemies.

Despite exploration suffering from slow movement, it has bright spots with some solid design and minor platforming challenges. Combat suffers exceptionally from the slow pace. What’s worse is that you’re acutely aware you’re mashing the attack button when playing. There is never a moment where the game captures you and you get lost in it.

The combat lacks any viscerality, whether you’re using a sword or a club or an axe or a lance or a wand, the combat feels similar. Sure, there are different effects for each, but it never seems like any one weapon confers a benefit. Again, the game is a press attack exercise. Even in the boss fights, which are well designed and challenging, they feel academic rather than dangerous.

Skellboy review
The body part switching mechanic and unique weapons are fun, but they don’t make much difference in how the game plays.

Gameplay isn’t without a bright spot, the body part system is super cool. Skellboy can swap out his head, body, and legs. Different body parts have various effects like more health, armor, making enemies friendly toward you or deleterious statuses for cursed body parts. As cool as the mechanic is, there isn’t really much use for body parts that don’t add health in the game except for when the story necessitates specific body parts.

The most disappointing part of Skellboy is that the game is well made. However, it lacks the magic that could make it unforgettable.

Overall

Skellboy is a game that looks better than it plays. Visually, it is inventive and eye catching. Gameplay wise is where it lacks. While a perfectly serviceable hack-n-slash adventure, it never quite gets going, which is a shame.

Skellboy was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.

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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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SKELLBOY REVIEW: FRAIL

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall67%

GAMEPLAY5

Gameplay is slow and plodding with combat that never quite feels right. While it has a cool mechanic with interchangeable body parts, it doesn’t make up for the other ponderous elements.

GRAPHICS9

Visually Skellboy is splendid with a great storybook feel created with its 2D and 3D graphics.

SOUND8

The music rocks and helps match the fun vibe of the visuals.

STORY5

The story is a decent comedy of errors, but it is hurt by a lack of straight people, which undercuts the stakes of the narrative.