By Michael Fontanini / June 23rd, 2020
|Publisher||Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.|
|Release Date||June 2nd, 2020|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Indie|
|Platform||PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
|Age Rating||ESRB: Everyone 10+|
Skelattack reverses the standard roles in dungeon crawlers by putting players in the shoes of a skeleton named Skully. It’s not long after Skully joins the ranks of the dead before the peace is broken. Sitting in the town of Aftervale, your adventure begins when the humans start raiding the dungeon for unknown reasons. Your best friend, Imber, is a bat, and together you must set out to protect the entire underworld from the growing threat! Along the way, you’ll learn about your own past life, the true nature of the raids, and maybe even why the dead live again in Aftervale. Are your bones tough enough to save Aftervale and the rest of the underworld?
The undead town of Aftervale is the hub area that you’ll return to a number of times as your adventure unfolds in Skelattack. You’ll need to return if you want to get upgrades for your bone sword and for some of the magic abilities you will acquire. We’ll get to those in a minute, though. Skelattack is a quirky, relatively simple action platformer and dungeon crawler. There is a bit of a learning curve at first, as you get used to the way Skully controls, particularly when jumping and sliding on walls. Skully has the ability to double jump as well as wall jump, enabling him to scale narrow shafts. If he simply stays on the wall, he can slide down it. Everyone knows life isn’t easy, so naturally in many cases there will be very sharp spikes on the walls to avoid. They are so sharp. in fact, that one touch is instant death even though you’re already dead!
Initially, the town elder skeleton, Elzedon, is your mentor. Your first hint that something is odd with the raids is that rather than going for treasure, the humans kidnapped the elder! They are after something much more significant than mere treasure, but you’ll have to unravel that mystery for yourself! As you progress, you’ll encounter odd crystals that you can collect, known as flaming ember. These crystals are your money, and you’ll find them lying around in the dungeon from time to time. They are also dropped by enemies. The first magic upgrades that become available will be hard to purchase until you get a little further into your quest. This is because you will likely die enough times that you’ll keep losing your money before you have a chance to spend it. You see, if you drop some and die in a different spot before recollecting it, then it will disappear. This is because you drop more ember flames in the last place you died. A little later, when you start seeing more enemies, you can repeatedly farm them for ember flame.
Skully will obtain four major magic abilities during his adventure. One is magic that upgrades his jumping ability, while another allows you to heal. However, the heal magic can only be used when your friend, Imber, is with you, as it is actually one of his abilities. Another ability for Skully that can be upgraded via magic is a boomerang known as the Boom-a-rib. You can use it to hit enemies from a distance or collect items that you can’t otherwise reach. So how do you get these magical upgrades for various abilities? You visit the eccentric mage in Aftervale, of course! Obviously such things don’t come without a cost, so you’ll have to pay him to use his magical skills to improve your abilities. There is also a blacksmith in town who can upgrade your Bone Sword. This can only be done when you’ve found a piece of rare metal during your adventure. It is possible to complete the game without all of them, and if you do you can’t go back. For completionists, it should be noted that after beating the game once, re-opening your save file will start you in the room just before the final boss fight. Unfortunately, at this point you have no way to return to Aftervale or anywhere else in the game. So avoid chasing the final human boss if you want to get everything first. It should be noted that Skelattack is a fairly short game, so this is not a big deal.
The gameplay in Skelattack is simple but fun. It provides some platforming challenge, but no area will take you too long to overcome. The game has an extensive checkpoint system, so you’ll never have to redo too much of what you already did if you die. This is good, as some sections would become pretty frustrating without it. There are many spots that will take you around 5-10 tries give or take, but usually not too much more than that. There did seem to be a small design flaw in the early game, however. In the training section, the game has spikes littered around too much at a time when the player is still getting used to the way Skully controls. You’ll mess up the timing of your jumps many times and bang your head on spikes as you jump to an adjacent wall, for example. It just feels like an odd difficulty spike at that point. By the end of the game, the controls feel much better once you’ve mastered it all. You’ll still mess up timing your jumps plenty, though. Overall, the gameplay is fairly simple but fun.
As you can see, Skelattack‘s 2D visuals use a detailed, hand-drawn cartoon style that is very nice to look at. Skelattack‘s soundtrack is well-done and sets moods ranging from the quirky peacefulness in Aftervale, to the tense moments in the upper crypt as you make your final push. It is just as quirky as the game’s story, the goofy cast of characters, and the art style. The sound effects are also well done, such as the whoosh of Skully’s Bone Sword, which gives it some oomph.
Skelattack is a fun little romp through the underworld to save it from the pesky humans. Its biggest flaw may just be that you’ll feel like it’s over too soon. However, the story is a little deeper than you may expect, though not super deep. Skully will uncover truths about his own past life, the true motives of the humans, and more. However, the lore text is entirely optional, as you will only see the lore you’ve collected if you go to the Aftervale library to read it. So it won’t annoy you if you don’t care about it, though I personally like it. It provides some extra details beyond the main story. My adventure in the afterlife came to a victorious end after a handful of hours or so. My playtime is too short to get an exact number from the profile screen on my Switch. This game doesn’t have the most replay value in the world, but you can always replay it to try to find stuff you missed last time. It is still fun and charming enough to be worth more playthroughs anyway. All in all, Skelattack is a fun, charming little indie game. It is available in the Nintendo Switch eShop for $19.99, though this price point may be too high for some based on the amount of content. You can also find the game on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Will you risk breaking your bones to save the underworld and dare to learn about your own past life?
Review copy provided by publisher.