By Michael Fontanini / June 4th, 2020
Editor’s Note: Due to the postponement of GDC, oprainfall has taken it upon themselves to help provide coverage to developers who were going to showcase their games there. Sky Racket is one of those games.
Developed by Double Dash Studios, Sky Racket is a simple game to pick up, but very hard to master. It is an odd melding of the shmup and block breaker genres, and even throws in a dash of Pong later on. The developers call it the world’s first “Shmup Breaker”. You can play it alone or with a buddy, too. Players can play as RacketBoy or RacketGirl, and can freely switch between them on the map screen at any time. The difference between the two is just cosmetic. They don’t have separate objectives for each stage, and they don’t have independent progress saved either. In other words, you can’t set separate high scores with each character since there are no real differences between them. They can both use their racket to bounce back enemy projectiles to destroy enemies and other objects. Each can also roll to move a bit faster.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the map screen shows that the second stage in world one has five objectives to beat. One is just clearing the level, while the rest are optional challenges. These are things like hitting all of a certain thing in the level or breaking a certain amount of blocks. Those rainbow orbs displayed for the objectives you’ve cleared have a deeper significance, as you may have guessed from the counter in the top left showing how many you have. We’ll get to that in a moment, though. Each world has several stages and finishes with a wacky boss fight. World one ends with a giant flying banana boss, which you can see at the top of the map.
The gameplay is fairly basic, but quite difficult to master. You can fly around the screen, but its best to stay on the left side to give yourself as much reaction time as possible. You can use your racket to bounce enemy projectiles back at them or into blocks. If you hit one from a bit below, it will bounce back and upwards. Hit it from a little above and you’ll bounce it back and downward. Some projectiles break on their first hit with an object, but others can be bounced multiple times. If you do it enough times, it will get bigger and more powerful. Destructible objects drop yellow stars that you can collect to increase your combo.
There are a handful of friend characters to unlock by reaching their space on the map of a given world. You can talk to them to get them to come with you. You’ll also sometimes get one to appear by destroying things in a level. It will float in a bubble until you grab it. If you hit the bubble with your racket, it will change to a different friend character. So you can cycle through those you’ve unlocked. You can have one friend character fly beside you at a time, and they each have a special attack. The first friend character, Batata (seen in the above screenshot) shoots a pair of blue projectiles forward (one going at an upward angle, and the other downward). Meanwhile, the green bird friend character that you rescue in world 2, Mokeka, has a circular area of effect attack. Your sidekicks can only fire once at a time, and then can’t do so again until they have recharged. It should also be noted that friend characters are quite fragile, so they will be gone quickly if they take enemy fire.
Keeping your friend character alive may be tougher than you expect, as some levels descend into bullet hell madness. Good luck, because you’ll need it. The gameplay is at its core simple but hard to master. As you delve deeper into the game, the difficulty ramps up quite significantly. In fact, some levels feel pretty cheap as you get deeper in the game. However, if you struggle too much, Sky Racket has two accessibility options in the menus that it doesn’t tell you about. You can spawn a friend character, or give yourself God mode. It should be noted that the only penalty for death is that you have to start the level over again from the beginning, though that can be a pain in some cases.
Remember those rainbow orbs I mentioned earlier that are earned by beating level objectives? Well, after beating the game the first time, you will need to earn lots of them to be able to unlock a new area that appears in the map screen. Beating the game for the first time also unlocks a much stiffer challenge: arcade mode. The idea there is to beat the whole game in one go (as opposed to a single stage like in normal play). Should you attempt to beat it, you will be busy for quite a while. Likewise, earning enough rainbow orbs to unlock the secret will take you quite a long time as well. Some of those are brutal. In fact, they are designed such that I’m pretty sure some of the harder ones will still be very hard even if you try to cheese it with God mode. All that would do is keep you from dying as much, but it will not help at all for trying to break X amount of blocks, or destroying all of a certain thing in the stage.
Sky Racket has a very vibrant, retro art style as you can see. It also has fittingly retro sound effects that echo games of old. The music is a well-done, and enjoyable retro soundtrack that suits the rest of the game and its oddness pretty well. You can pick up Sky Racket on the Steam store for $14.99. The game starts out as a fun mix of shmup and block breaker that is relatively easy. Unfortunately, many players will find that the difficulty ramps up too quickly. There are also a lot of achievements to get, though most of them are tied to the level objectives you beat to earn those rainbow orbs. If you like shmups and bullet hell in particular, you’re more likely to enjoy this title. The bullet hell aspect doesn’t come in until you’re deeper into the game, though. You can find out more at the official Sky Racket website.
Double Dash StudiosGDCoprainfallShmupSky Racket