It’s a Skeleton
The most striking aspect of Fabraz and UmaikiGames’ Skellboy is its visual design, as its utilisation of 2D graphics in a 3D world combines nicely with some neat camera work. It’s not a long title, nor one that will last in the memory for any great length of time, as behind this lies is a pretty standard adventure that doesn’t stray far beyond the box on the gameplay front. However, it does the job it sets out to do of keeping its players entertained.
The peace of the Cubold Kingdom is shattered as the king’s court magician Squaruman turns to evil and creates an army of undead. Fortunately, one of the newly-risen includes an old hero, known as Skippy, who uses his skeletal body to his advantage by swapping out body parts to gain new abilities for his quest to defeat Squaruman and restore peace. The story is primarily there just to give players direction and is immediately forgettable after the fact, but the high level of humour and charm within the writing work well with the game’s design to keep players engaged in the eight to ten hours of a typical playthrough.
As one would expect from an adventure RPG, Skellboy sees players exploring in and around the areas of the kingdom’s main castle, opening progress by unlocking doors or gaining new abilities. Skippy has head, chest, and leg slots where he can swap out body parts for those found or dropped by enemies. Different body parts may provide different abilities — for example letting players float — and may also grant extra health. Skippy also has access to five weapon types that can be swapped between on the fly, with one of each type held at any time. There aren’t any other methods of growth, though at around the half-way point, Skippy gains the ability to return to the crypt and equip anything he has found previously in the game, as well as fast travel between previously found save points.
Combat is straightforward action as players swing their weapons at nearby enemies. There are a few extra bits on top of that, such as the charged club attack and ability to throw lances, but it’s what one would expect from an adventure title without any surprises. The boss fights are entertaining spectacles and reward players for paying attention, keeping moving, and waiting for the chance to attack. Movement in Skellboy is slower than other adventure titles, which gives actions a more deliberate feel and mitigates some potential platforming annoyances, but also makes it a bit harder to react to enemy attacks and makes traversing some of its larger areas a bit of drag. Most of the areas are usefully compact, however, so the extra movement time is never too much.
Defeat is cheap; Skippy is merely dumped back at the last save point at full health, along with his equipment at the time of death. Any progress made, such as activated switches, is also kept. There are a couple of annoying sections, such as the one filled with darkness, and while some boss fights may need a few attempts to learn their patterns, Skellboy generally offers a fair challenge throughout. Puzzles usually amount to finding a switch or collecting and equipping a certain ability, and there are additional sidequests and challenges, such as collecting all of the available body parts or weapons, but players can get through the game perfectly fine without doing them.
Skellboy makes good use of its blocky 2D art style and 3D world with some nifty camera usage. However, it sometimes makes it hard to judge positioning and angles when moving and fighting in certain areas. The castle and its surrounding areas have lots of fun design touches, along with a good mixture of zones from the throne room to the farm and the underground dungeons. There are some performance issues in the review build; the game stutters at certain points and, though these never came up in critical situations during the review playthrough, the stutters are highly noticeable. The music can get a little repetitive but at least it is enjoyably catchy and the sound effects do their job as well as one might hope, while the lack of voice acting doesn’t take anything away from the game.
Players shouldn’t expect too much from Skellboy, but it does what it sets out to do and provides some good sessions of entertainment. Its length hits a good balance for what the gameplay has to offer and the steps of progress come along frequently enough that even when some annoyance does occur, players can be confident it won’t last very long. The game offers enough humourous charm and strong enough gameplay to make it an enjoyable experience.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Visual style stands out well
Movement feels a bit too slow
Some sections can be a bit annoying